The scene of devastation in Beirut last year

Armenia Ready to Accept Lebanese Repatriates

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YEREVAN (Armenpress) — The government of Armenia is developing a package of regulations that will enable it to “worthily” receiving repatriates from Lebanon after the August 4 Beirut blast, the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs Zareh Sinanyan said at a news conference on August 14 after returning from the Lebanese capital where he led a delegation to assess the situation.

“We must be able to worthily receive the people who are willing to come to Armenia, live here, become full members of the society, citizens, taxpayers, soldiers, and try to build the homeland we dream about,” Sinanyan said.

Asked whether Armenia is implementing a repatriation policy for the Lebanese-Armenians, Sinanyan noted that he doesn’t consider this description to be accurate. He said that in the event of repatriation policy it is the government who is creating the conditions which lead to people willing to return, whereas this isn’t the case.

“In this case we are actually in the role of an observer,” he said, noting that the current situation was caused by different accumulating problems in Lebanon.

He pointed out the Lebanese economic crisis, the banking sector’s paralyzed condition, the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and the August 4 explosion in Beirut. “And the blast was the last blow. As a result, we have what we have,” Sinanyan said.

In one month, more than 470 Lebanese-Armenians have repatriated to Armenia, Sinanyan said. Of those, 370 arrived on five different flights operated by Middle East Airlines on July 14, July 21, July 28, August 4 and August 11.

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Another 101 were airlifted back to Armenia on board the emergency relief planes that delivered humanitarian aid to Beirut after the August 4 explosion.

According to him, Lebanese-Armenians wanted to leave Lebanon as early as 2019. He presented results of a 2019 survey conducted among 521 Lebanese-Armenians, with 58 percent of respondents saying they would leave Lebanon soon. A significant part of them had said they consider moving to Armenia.

“We, as a state, bear responsibility for our citizens. According to the embassy’s information, there are 25000 Armenian citizens living in Lebanon, we have responsibility for our compatriots,” Sinanyan said.

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia Zaruhi Batoyan added that “Following the Beirut explosion naturally our compatriots in Beirut and particularly the citizens of Armenia would expect the assistance of the Republic of Armenia. Now, when the Government has provided 1st aid to Lebanon, the 1st steps are done and we must be ready to that if our compatriots living there decide to leave Lebanon for some reasons, they should come to Armenia so that they get new opportunities for living free, happy and prosperous in Armenia.”

The Minister noted that everything must be done so that after they arrive in Armenia, they should not think of moving to other countries like it happened with many Syrian-Armenians.

On August 4, a major explosion in the Port of Beirut sent an immensely powerful shockwave across the Lebanese capital, killing at least 220 people, injuring 7000 and causing massive destruction. Around 300,000 people were left homeless. It resulted in US$10–15 billion in property damage.

Among the victims are 13 Lebanese-Armenians who died in the blast, and 300 other representatives of the community were injured.

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