Inter-Agency Commission on Coordination of Syrian-Armenians’ Issues holds subsequent session

On February 13, the Inter-Agency Commission on Coordination of Syrian-Armenians’ Issues held its subsequent session at the RA Ministry of Diaspora. The session was chaired by RA Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan.

RA Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Armen Papikyan delivered a report on the first item on the agenda, that is, the current state of affairs in Iraq and Syria and the problems facing the Armenian communities of the two countries. He provided details about the political situation in the Middle East and stated that the peace in Syria is still fragile and that it is still too early for Syrian-Armenians to consider returning to Syria.

Head of the Department for Passports and Visas of the Police adjunct to the Government of the Republic of Armenia Mnatsakan Bichakhchyan delivered a report on the Syrian-Armenians who acquired Armenian citizenship and obtained residency statuses throughout 2016, as well as the current sector-specific problems and the future actions.

Representative of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Armenia Christoph Bierwirth talked about the activities that the Office has carried out to solve the key issues of Syrian-Armenians and the upcoming programs. “It is still too early to make calls for return to Syria, and each family needs to make a balanced decision, taking into consideration all the factors. Let them decide,” Bierwirth stated.

Touching upon the Syrian-Armenians’ return to Syria, Minister Hranush Hakobyan stressed the following: “Return is not an issue stated in Armenia’s state policy. On the contrary, Armenia must do everything it can to make sure the Syrian-Armenians stay in Armenia and settle here. Syrian-Armenians are an asset for Armenia.”

Director of the Office of the Baden-Württemberg branch of the German Red Cross in Armenia Movses Poghosyan talked about the completed activities and upcoming programs. Among other issues, the speaker also touched upon the soup kitchens and children’s food outlets. He stated that there are three hot food outlets in Yerevan, children’s food outlets have opened in the bordering Koti and Voskevan villages and other outlets will open in the Jujevan and Baghanis villages soon.

The director of the Office also introduced coordinator of the program of Syunik-Development NGO Tilo Krose, who has expressed willingness to carry out the program for support to Syrian-Armenians throughout 2017.

Current issues were also discussed. Summing up the session, Minister Hranush Hakobyan attached importance to the participation of charitable, international and pan-Armenian organizations in the solutions to the key issues of Syrian-Armenians. Summing up the activities carried out in previous months, the Minister expressed gratitude to all the partnering organizations and stated the following: “At the end of last year, the Armenian General Benevolent Union opened a polyclinic for Syrian-Armenians and hired six Syrian-Armenian doctors. New Year’s events were organized for Syrian-Armenian children. Throughout 2016, 2,189 Syrian-Armenians addressed the Ministry of Diaspora with their issues. Between 1 October and 27 December, 155 Syrian-Armenians arrived in Armenia, including 29 in December, 50 in November and 76 in October.

There are 129 Syrian-Armenians who have moved to Armenia, and as of 1 February 2017, 10 Armenian families have moved from Syria to Armenia. The situation in Syria is currently peaceful, but the water is scarce. The schools, churches, as well as the local orphanage and nursing home are operating. The spiritual leaders stand by the side of the community.”

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