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UNHCR: To improvement of asylum space and refugee protection in Armenia

On 3 February 2016, the first national coordination meeting of a regional project funded and implemented by UNHCR: ‘Asylum Systems Quality Initiative in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus (QIEE)’ – Phase 2, was convened to agree on key directions and priority activities in the field of asylum and protection of refugees to be implemented in Armenia in 2016. The meeting brought together at UN House in Yerevan representatives of the State Migration Service (SMS) of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations, Academy of Justice, Association of Judges, Administrative Court, Administrative Court of Appeals, Court of Cassation and Border Guard Troops of the National Security Service and UNHCR.

 

QIEE – Phase 1 regional project implemented in 2013 – 2015 focused on improving the asylum space in the region (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) by improving first instance decision-making practices. In Armenia, this has led to amendments to the law on refugees, putting standard procedures on paper, a new quality assurance staffing in the SMS, overall leading to significant results in quality improvement, fairness and efficiency of first asylum procedures. The participating countries’ request for continuation of the project with a second phase (2015 – 2017), was met: QIEE – Phase 2 will grant the region the opportunity to expand its scope to cover more comprehensively the other elements of an effective asylum system such as access to territory and judicial review of first instance decisions.

 

The first national coordination meeting of the Project in Yerevan which took place today, served as a forum for all interested actors to exchange views and provide feedback on the progress achieved during Phase 1, remaining challenges and proposed recommendations on actions to be taken. For the first time, Refugee Law curriculum will be introduced at the Academy of Justice and partners, including, judges and border guards, will exchange knowledge and experience with counterparts abroad, including, Germany and Sweden.

 

During his presentation at the meeting, the Head of the Asylum Unit of SMS, Mr. Petros Aghababyan, emphasised the value of the Project in terms of its practical nature resulting in quality results.

During the opening session of the meeting, UNHCR Representative in Armenia, Mr. Christoph Bierwirth said: ‘’After the initial institutional building phase has been concluded, the Project will focus on adjustments of capacities to needs and further improvement of the quality of decision-making at all instances.’’

 

‘’QIEE – Phase 2 Project will allow experience exchange among border guards, asylum authorities and judiciary in the region.’’, Ms. Kate Pochapsky, Protection Officer at UNHCR Armenia, said. ‘’Owing to the Project, UNHCR has achieved systematised cooperation with all the relevant authorities to ensure concrete and quality results.’’, Ms. Pochapsky added.

 

The parties, including, government authorities: representatives of the judiciary, emphasised the importance of the Project and considered it as a crucial initiative for the entire region which would ensure quality and further capacity development of relevant decision-making authorities. The parties, thereby, reassured their commitment to engage in the QIEE through participation in related processes and activities.

Source:  UNHCR Armenia

 

UNHCR established its presence in Armenia in December 1992 to contribute to the humanitarian response related to the mass influx of 360,000 refugees of Armenian background displaced from Azerbaijan in the context of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia is a State party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, as well as, to the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions. Armenia is a full member of UNHCR EXCOM since 2015.

Presently the office is focusing in particular on the humanitarian needs and promotion of integration of about 17,000 persons who fled the conflict in Syria and sought protection in Armenia.  Arrivals are ongoing. Moreover, Armenia hosts refugees and asylum-seekers from Iraq, Ukraine and Iran and smaller numbers of refugees from some African countries.

The following are UNHCR strategic priorities for 2015-2017 built on the progress made in the previous years, namely, in the field of legislative reforms, the establishing of asylum procedures, and humanitarian response network: (i) to further develop the Armenian asylum system with a view to further enhance the quality of decision making and adjust capacities to needs; (ii) to gradually shift the focus of assistance efforts from humanitarian response towards the promotion and facilitation of durable solutions, primarily by way of local integration; and (iii) to bring into operation Armenia’s statelessness determination procedures following adoption of related legislation.

 

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