Armenian Migration Chief Notes Growing Number of Iraq Asylum-Seekers

Armenian migration chief notes growing number of Iraqi asylum-seekers

Hayots Ashkharh, Yerevan
23 Feb 05

Text of Shushan Matevosyan’s report by Armenian newspaper Hayots
Ashkharh on 23 February headlined “The number of Iraqi asylum-seekers
has increased and no-one has been refused”

Lately, the number of those seeking asylum in the Republic of Armenia
has sharply increased in connection with the Iraq war. What are
statistical figures of asylum-seekers? What countries are they from?

The following is an interview with the chief of the Migration and
Refugees Department, Gagik Yeganyan.

[Gagik Yeganyan] Since 2000, our department has received applications
for asylum and refugee status from citizens of different
states. Before 2003, the number of applications was not so great. We
received 15-20 applications per year mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and
African countries like Sudan and Somalia, as well as from Iran and
even from Ukraine and China.

As a rule, a great number of them were refused, as after the
examination it became clear that their reasons for leaving the country
were not true. Most of them left their home country due to difficult
social and economic conditions or in order to avoid military
service. They applied for asylum in Armenia as a transit state as
their real purpose was to settle in the West. And in order to settle
legally in any transit country, they applied for refugee status.
Incidentally, this is common among our compatriots as well.

In 2002, we initiated the adoption of a new law regarding temporarily
protected people. This law says that Armenia is expanding the circle
of people it protects. That’s to say, it receives not only potential
refugees, but also people who are in danger of being persecuted
because of wars or armed conflicts.

[Hayots Ashkharh correspondent] In fact, the adoption of the law was
well-timed, as it was followed by an influx of Iraqis who are seeking

[Yeganyan] In this case, people were really forced to leave their
country and seek asylum because of the war.

Since 2003, the influx of applications from Iraq has increased
sharply. That year, we had 61 applications and they were all given the
status of temporarily protected people. Last year [2004], we had 142
applications. I think the influx of applications will be permanent.

[Correspondent] What does this status give people apart from
protection, accommodation, a job and financial aid?

[Yeganyan] It gives security and a chance to avoid persecution. They
have the right of legal settlement in Armenia at least for a year, and
one year later, their applications may be considered again. If the
situation remains the same in the countries of which they are
citizens, in that case, these persons’ status may be extended for one
more year. Those who want to become permanent residents of Armenia may
get different status up to citizenship during that year.
Incidentally, those who are Armenians by nationality are granted
Armenian citizenship in a simpler way. But we cannot promise anything
to those who are trying to settle their social problems by extending
their status.

[Correspondent] What is the number of those who sought asylum this

[Yeganyan] I cannot mention figures, but undoubtedly the potential has
not been exhausted. It is presumed that their numbers will grow.

[Correspondent] Mr Yeganyan, recently there was an interesting report
in the press saying that the chairman of the Civil Service Council,
Manvel Badalyan, had informed the state juridical commission of the
National Assembly that an official had been granted the status of an
Armenian refugee in order to leave the country illegally. In fact,
this concerns your department.

[Yeganyan] We also registered such a case recently, but I do not think
that this is the case that was covered by the press. One of our
department employees illegally issued a reference to a citizen and
made him a refugee. In this case, the citizen tried to use the refugee
status to avoid military service. Thanks to the measures taken by our
department, the violation of the law was prevented.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress