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UNHCR Armenia Key messages for World Refugee Day 2015

 

The plight of refugees and other displaced population deserves utmost attention and empathy. Unfortunately today’s world is confronted with the largest displacement challenges since the end of World War II. Nearly 60 million people are presently forcibly displaced and new crises have emerged in 2014 and 2015.

 

Armenia, having already received several hundred thousand refugees from Azerbaijan and over one thousand persons from Iraq, is presently in particular facing displacement from Syria and Ukraine. About 14,000 persons fleeing the conflict in Syria, primarily of ethnic Armenian background, have sought and found protection in Armenia and new arrivals, often in most destitute situation are observed every week. Almost 200 persons displaced due to the conflict in Ukraine have filed their asylum application with the State Migration Service, but more stay in the country. Moreover, Armenia also hosts smaller number of refugees from a variety of countries. This constitutes a significant challenge for a small country such as Armenia, which is still suffering from the unresolved conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, closed borders, isolation and a difficult economic situation.

 

In order to ensure humanitarian response and assist the Armenian authorities to handle the Syrian crisis and address the most urgent needs of the displaced population owing to its efforts UNHCR expanded its humanitarian operation in Armenia in 2015. However, despite the support in the society and strong engagement of the government, diaspora and faith-based organizations, NGOs and UNHCR and the introduction of a variety of assistance schemes, refugees and other displaced in Armenia do still face a lot of challenges. It is difficult to find affordable housing and sufficient livelihood opportunities and adaptation to a new, very different environment is difficult.

 

UNHCR welcomes that the Government in principle continues to pursue a receptive approach towards refugees and in particular has introduced a number of measures assisting persons displaced from Syria. The Government offers them a variety of protection options, namely by way of (i) simplified acquisition of citizenship, (ii) accelerated asylum procedures or (iii) privileged granting of short, mid-term or long-term residence permits.

 

UNHCR likes to emphasise, however, that refugee protection must be offered irrespective of the ethnic background of a refugee. UNHCR also observes with appreciation that most segments of society are generally receptive to the displaced and show understanding for their plight. Given the country’s history and the collective experience of thousands of Armenians having found admission and survival in many countries of the world, the institution of asylum is deeply rooted in the Armenian society.

 

UNHCR Officer-in-Charge in Armenia, Ms. Kate Pochapsky, has expressed in this context: “Integration is a complex and gradual process, thus support efforts must continue.  I like to call for understanding, tolerance and empathy. One should not forget the pain many refugees have to suffer from, having been forced to leave their homes, to leave behind the graves of ancestors and their places of childhood full of memories, a familiar environment, friends and family members, often aggravated by the grief over lost beloved ones.”

 

She explains that it is primarily for the State to provide protection to refugees and it is UNHCR’s mandate to supervise the State’s adherence to its related international obligations and to offer support with a view to capacitate and assist the authorities in securing the rights and meeting the needs of refugees and other displaced persons. He states: “However, it is for the society – for every member of it – to make refugees and other displaced feel welcome and to offer a genuine chance to find a new home and a future. While some members of society should self-critically ask themselves whether it is appropriate to increase requested rental fees if a tenant comes from Syria or whether the particular situation of a refugee has been properly and fairly considered when engaging in business partnerships or negotiating salaries, many others should be praised for their humanitarian engagement and philanthropic measures taken. I would not like to miss the occasion of World Refugee Day 2015 to thank the latter and to encourage all members of the Armenian society to offer a helping hand to the displaced.”

 

 

19 June 2015

Yerevan Armenia

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