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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs