Armenia receives 15,000 Syrian Armenian refugees

Armenia says it hosts 15,000 Syrians, particularly Christian-Armenian Syrians

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

The Santa Ana Armenian Orthodox church located in the Christian village of Yacobiyeh in Syria.

According to UNHCR figures, Armenia has received at least 15,000 Syrians since the start of the civil war in 2011, mostly descendants of Armenians who formerly inhabited the Ottoman empire and moved to Syria after 1915.

Syria had around 100,000 Armenians before the civil war, 60,000 of them settled in Aleppo, with smaller communities in Kessab, Qamishli, Yacubiyah, Kobani and Damascus.

Syria's Deir Ezzor became the first destination of Armenians coming from Anatolia in 1915. The region gradually became a major destination for Armenians. Syrian Armenians drive all the way to Beirut, so they can board flights to Yerevan.

Armenians generally consider Syrian-Armenians as their "mother community."

Armenian consular offices in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon issue citizenship and passports to Syrian Armenians free of charge.

The numbers Armenia hosts still pale in comparison with the 4 million displaced Syrians, who struggle for their lives in refugee camps spanning three countries, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

In 2012, Armenia received only a little over 6,500 people. In 2013, the number of Syrian Armenians fleeing reached 11,000 and by August 2015, over 15,000 Armenians reported to be seeking asylum in Armenia.

Syria's ethnic Armenians see Armenia as a safe choice, in which they can easily and quickly settle down, not only because of the ancient belonging and the predominantly Christian society, but also because of migration policies and repatriation programme.

However Armenia was forced to adopt “special measures" to eventually be able to help Syrian Armenians. The economic woes faced by the small nation neighbouring Turkey and Iran, have made it difficult to provide accommodation and jobs for the newly-arrived Syrians.

Education, medical care and the provision of documents are the main assistances provided by the Armenian government to Syrian Armenians.

"We are concerned about the rental of accommodation; this is already a challenge to us. We have to turn to international and benevolent organisations for help because we will face a problem. The flow is too big, we cannot cope," Firdus Zakaryan, an official from Armenia's Ministry of Diaspora, said recently.

TRTWorld and agencies