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

    Former US Envoys Urge Obama to Delay Troop Cuts in Afghanistan

    Keeping troop levels up during conflict with both Taliban and Islamic State is necessary to support Kabul government, they say

    First Lady to Visit Africa to Promote Girls' Education

    Michele Obama will be joined by daughters and actresses Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto

    Video NYSE Analyst: Brexit Will Continue to Place Pressure on Markets

    Despite orderly pricing and execution strategy at the New York Stock Exchange, analyst explains added pressure on world financial markets is likely

    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.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora