Syria’s Armenians escape from conflict to Armenia

Syria’s Armenians escape from conflict to Armenia

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Syria’s Armenians escape from conflict to Armenia

Syrians are seen at a camp near the border. Turkey is hosting over 42,000 Syrians. Armenians fleeing from Syria refrain from coming to Turkey or Lebanon, says lawyer.

The longstanding conflict in Syria has affected the country’s Christian population causing many Armenians to flee violence in the country and a group to be formed in Armenia to protect migrants arriving there. 

Armenians fleeing Syria often migrate to Armenia first but later head to another country due to a lack of job opportunities in the country, according to locals. An initiative has been started in Armenia to assist Armenians emigrating from Syria. It is not known how many people fall into this category as no official statement on the issue has been released.

An office has been established to house the Armenian initiative, which includes lawyers who guide emigrants through various legal procedures and help to protect their rights. Lawyer Lyudvig Tavtyan is one of the founders of the group “Cross-border Protection of Migrants’ Human Rights,” which was established by Armenia’s Forensic Experts and Jurists Association. The group has negotiated with Armenia’s Diaspora Minister Hranuyş Hagopyan, and informed him about the new initiative and its work, Tavtyan told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“We have limited opportunities, so we have asked the minister to announce the formation of the initiative and to give support to emigrants,” Tavtyan said. He underlined that migration from Syria to Armenia has recently increased, but that the number of emigrants is not clear yet as the Armenian Foreign Ministry has not released an official number. According to information from migrants coming from Syria, hundreds of Syrian Armenians have come to Armenia within the last three months, however, it is difficult to estimate a precise number, Tavtyan said.

Some of the emigrants have come to live with relatives in Armenia, while some are supported by the Armenian Red Cross, Tavtyan said. It is also difficult to determine how many of the incoming migrants from Syria plan to settle in the country long-term. “It is very hard to give a clear answer, because some of the Syrians coming to Armenia plan to return to Syria after the conflict, while others plan to migrate to another country. Consequently, giving a precise answer is very difficult,” Tavtyan said. 

Turkey and Lebanon are also hosting many Syrian refugees fleeing violence, but Armenians do not come to Turkey as it denies that events in 1915 constituted a “genocide.” Many Armenians migrated to Syria in 1915, Tavtyan said, adding that Armenians also do not migrate to Lebanon as they wish to leave the Middle East because of the many ongoing conflicts occurring there. Armenians generally prefer to migrate to countries where they have relatives and wish to come to Europe of the United States, Tavtyan said. 

Armenia is not prepared to welcome a large-scale migration due to effects of global economic crisis currently being felt in the country, Tavtyan said. However, the Armenian government is doing its best to support immigrants from Syria and individuals have also opened their homes to Syrian Armenians, he said. 

Before the migration began, the number of Armenians in Syria was estimated to be about 100,000. A great majority of Syrian Armenians are concerned about the collapse of the current regime in Syria due to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s moderate policies toward the Christian population. They are also concerned that they will not be able to return to their country.

Many people must now reach Armenia via land transportation, because there are no vacant seats available on Armenian Airlines flights until September. Tickets on these flights cost $650, which is difficult for many families to afford, Tavtyan said.