News / Europe

    Armenian PM: Syrian Refugees Plan to Stay

    It started as a trickle.  Now it is a flow.

    When the fighting began in Syria, some of the country's Syrian Armenians began to head to Armenia, but as the fighting has intensified so has the number of those looking to their ancestral homeland.  Now, Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan says there are about 7,000 Syrian Armenians in Armenia and that many are losing hope of ever going back.

    Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan speaks to VOA's Armenian Service, December 24, 2012.Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan speaks to VOA's Armenian Service, December 24, 2012.
    x
    Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan speaks to VOA's Armenian Service, December 24, 2012.
    Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan speaks to VOA's Armenian Service, December 24, 2012.
    "As the fighting continues, Syrians in Armenia begin making plans for the future," Sargsyan said in an exclusive interview with VOA's Armenian service.  "Recently we met with Syrian Armenians at the Armenian president’s office.  Many Syrian Armenians are interested in moving their businesses to Armenia."

    Most the refugees are from Syria's commercial hub of Aleppo, home to an estimated 80,000 of the country's more than 100,000 mostly Christian Syrian Armenians.  Many of them located to Syria in the early 1900s, fleeing the Ottoman Empire.

    Some left in a hurry, grabbing only a handful of items.  Others packed as much as they could carry, traveling in convoys for several days, through northern Syria and Turkey to get to the Armenian border.

    Sargsyan says the longer they stay, the more they feel that staying in Armenia is their only choice.

    "The challenges in front of us are helping them in transferring finances, moving equipment, getting bank credit and assistance in working in Armenia," he said.

    • A Syrian-Armenian family waits at the departure gate at Zvartnots Airport in Yerevan, Armenia, December 2012. (VOA/D. Markosian)
    • Syrian-Armenians at Zvartnots Airport in Yerevan, Armenia, December 2012. (VOA/D. Markosian)
    • A Syrian-Armenian national holds his Syrian and Armenian passports at the Zvartnots Airport, December 2012. (VOA/D. Markosian)
    • Students outside the Cilician School in Yerevan, Armenia, December 2012. (VOA/D. Markosian)
    • Students at the Cilician School, which was opened in Yerevan to allow Syrian-Armenian students to follow a Syrian curriculum at an Armenian state school, December 2012. (VOA/D. Markosian)
    • Students at the Cilician School in Yerevan, Armenia, December 2012. (VOA/D. Markosian)
    • Workers load humanitarian aid for Syria at Zvartnots Airport in Yerevan, Armenia, December 2012. (VOA/D. Markosian)
    • A panoramic view of Yerevan, Armenia, December 2012. (VOA/D. Markosian)

    Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has promised the Syrian Armenians his government will do whatever it can to help them for as long as necessary.  

    Armenia has already eased visa requirements and has set up a school in Yerevan, free of charge, that teaches the Syrian curriculum so that students do not fall behind in their studies.  It has also been helping to house refugees who do not have relatives in Armenia with whom they can stay.

    Still, as the flow of refugees grows, so does the strain on Armenia's resources.

    x
    The International Monetary Fund's most recent outlook - October 2012 - put Armenia's unemployment rate at 19 percent, forecasting the jobless rate will remain above 17 percent at least through 2017.  And even with the economy slowly gaining steam following a dramatic drop during the financial crisis, the World Bank says poverty remains a problem.

    Armenia's government has been spending money on targeted social programs and on increased pensions, hoping a slowly improving economy will ease the burden.  Still, the flow of refugees from Syria, especially those who owned their own businesses, may pose another obstacle.

    According to the World Bank, more than 12 percent of Armenia's economy depends on remittances.  Some of those payments came from the diaspora community in Syria.

    For now, Armenia remains determined to do what it can for the refugees.

    "We are trying to find solutions to all their social and economic needs," the prime minister told VOA.

    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Robert from: London
    December 27, 2012 2:49 AM
    They did not flee the Ottoman Empire. They fled because the Turks were committing genocide against the Armenians in 1915. Over 1.5 million Armenians perished in the Armenian Genocide.

    by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
    December 25, 2012 2:16 PM
    It is good to see that Armenia has stepped up to help refugees from Syria; this is a great humanitarian and compasionate act that deserves recognition and support. Armenia is not a financially wealthy country; the UN and Western nations need to help Armenia financially to ensure it can provide adequate help to the refugees.

    The EU is always grandstanding and providing financial support to "militant islamists", let us see if they step up and provide help to Christian refugees, that once again have lost it all. The article indicates that they are the descendants of Armenians that suffered the Ottoman progroms, which were horrendous; the Ottoman's brutality left people scarrred for many generations; it is sad to see these victims suffering once again.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora