Ambassador Armen Baibourtian

Armenian Consulate General in Los Angeles Active During Coronavirus Pandemic

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GLENDALE, Calif. – Consul General of the Republic of Armenia in Los Angeles Ambassador Armen Baibourtian reported that the Consulate General, located in Glendale but having jurisdictional responsibility over all the western states, remains operational. The State Department along with state and city authorities enabled it to be open as long as all precautionary measures were followed.

In addition to a large number of Armenian citizens permanently residing in California and throughout the entire West Coast, there are also a couple of hundred short-term visitors from Armenia, Baibourtian revealed. In order to find out exactly how many Armenian citizens are now staying provisionally in the western United States, the Consulate General encourages electronic registration. At present, primarily those with problems contact the Consulate General. Many Armenians were able to leave the US to return to Armenia when there were flights from Los Angeles to Yerevan.

Baibourtian explained that his office has prioritized provision of consular services since March 16, when the Consulate General switched to a new mode of operation amidst the pandemic and focused on addressing urgent matters. There are people who need documents to return to Armenia like return certificates. The consular division also processes applications for Armenian citizenship, extension of regular, non-biometric Armenian passports and consular legalization and certification of documents. It issues criminal record certificates and registers citizens via phone calls if they cannot register online.

The Consulate General avoids direct physical interaction with citizens, Baibourtian said. They come to hand over documents, which are taken in, processed and returned. Legalizing documents requires the signature of the applicant however. In addition to the office telephones, communications for urgent matters are maintained through two telephone hotlines operational 24 hours a day, as well as through social media like Facebook and the Consulate’s General official website.

On average, Baibourtian said that more than 50 individuals call the hotlines daily in this period, usually to ask questions or request help. At the present time, citizens of the Republic of Armenia in Southern California in general are unable to return to Armenia, as it is now the third week that no any airline makes connecting flights to Yerevan.

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Prior to the ending of Aeroflot flights from Los Angeles to Yerevan via Moscow, the airline would only take Russian citizens in conformity with their formal policy introduced for that time period. The Consulate General had to intervene and come to an agreement with them to also take Armenian citizens as a goodwill gesture. The last flight for Armenians was on March 26. Upon the Consulate’s General agreement with Aeroflot, 120 citizens of Armenia were able on priority basis to exchange their tickets or purchase new ones and travel to Yerevan. Some airlines that have connecting flights to Yerevan from Los Angeles like LOT Polish Airlines, Russian Aeroflot, Air France, and Austrian Airlines plan to resume their flight in early May.

Those who are now forced to remain in the US fortunately usually have friends or relatives with whom to stay, Baibourtian said. However, many need or will soon need extensions to their visas. Therefore the Consulate General, in cooperation with the US State Department office in Los Angeles, provides them with necessary information regarding online extension of visas for one month and placed the respective link on its website and Facebook page.

This costs over $400, and some people began to have financial difficulties. Fortunately, the US State Department just recently enabled waiving this fee, which was a big relief for people, Baibourtian related. The Armenian diplomatic mission in Los Angeles also provides assistance to its citizens with filling those applications.

Baibourtian added that in response to his request addressed to the California-based Armenian American Medical Society (AAMS), the latter has set up a special hotline for Armenian citizens for questions or issues related to COVID-19 situation or any other medical concerns. AAMS’s office staff directs them to appropriate local clinics or otherwise arranges for their medical needs to be addressed. The Armenian American Medical Society also compiled and provided to the Consulate General a list of hospitals and health centers in Armenian populated cities and towns of Southern California that provide Covid-19 related or regular non-coronavirus related medical treatment to Armenian citizens free of charge or minimal payment. For those Armenian citizens who are temporary visitors and don’t have medical insurance and cannot afford it, this help is of tremendous value. Baibourtian also briefed that he and his office regularly receives information about the medical needs of Armenian citizens and how those are addressed.

Ambassador Baibourtian keeps in touch with the Armenian honorary consuls in Fresno, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, concerning their situation and needs. He said that he is regularly in contact with the Armenian community spiritual and lay leadership, including the Pan Armenian Council of [the] Western USA. He also works closely with US government authorities and considers biweekly conference calls with Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti to be very useful. Naturally communication and exchange of information with the Armenian Embassy in Washington D.C. is of a regular nature.

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