Bushra Halepota: "Reception Capacity For Asylum Seekers In Armenia H


APRIL 27, 2010

YEREVAN, APRIL 27, ARMENPRESS: The UNHCR Armenia Office has been
functioning in Armenia since 1992. "Armenpress" news agency spoke
with the Representative of the UNHCR in Armenia Bushra Halepota about
its activity.

Ms. Halepota, what issues the UNHCR is solving and since its
establishment in Armenia in 1992 what activity has it carried out
for helping the refugees?

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
(UNHCR) is mandated to lead and coordinate international actions for
the world-wide legal protection of refugees and asylum seekers and
solutions of their problems.

UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and the well being
of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as to seek durable solutions
to their plight.

The main focus of UNHCR’s activity in Armenia is to promote local
integration of refugees in the society, i.e. their social, economic
and cultural integration in Armenian society.

UNHCR established its presence in Armenia as a response to the request
of the Government of Armenia for its assistance in order to deal with
the mass influx of ethnic Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan.

Since the end of 2004, Armenia has also registered a steadily growing
number of asylum seekers and refugees from Iraq. Furthermore, Armenia
also hosts a limited number of asylum seekers and refugees from other
countries than Iraq and Azerbaijan.

Nowadays what kind of programs are fulfilled by the office for creating
favorable conditions for the refugees?

UNHCR, together with the Government of the Republic of Armenia
and its implementing partners, the Armenian Red Cross Society and
Mission Armenia, provides assistance to vulnerable refugees and
asylum seekers. The comprehensive intervention strategy aims at
ensuring that basic health care and social counseling is provided to
extremely vulnerable refugees, including naturalized former refugees
(ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan), refugees from Iraq as well as
from other countries.

UNHCR, through its implementing partner, The Armenian Centre for
Health and Education, also addresses the need of an adequate response
to post trauma syndrome and signs of serious distress suffered by
many asylum seekers and refugees by providing psycho-social support,
counseling and referral to specialized institutions.

With regard to shelter, UNHCR is implementing a social housing program
with the funding provided by the Japanese government for sustainable
livelihoods. The former factory building in Kasakh village of Kotayk
marz, kindly donated by the local authorities, is being reconstructed,
through UNHCR’s implementing partner YMCA/Shelter, into a residential
building with around 20 social apartments to be allocated to vulnerable
refugees, naturalized former refugees, internally displaced persons
and locals. UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA and UNIDO are also participating in
the joint project, with an integrated approach to find sustainable
livelihoods for the vulnerable families in Gegharkunik Marz including
Kasakh in Kotayk.

Furthermore, in the current and coming years, UNHCR will ensure that
the refugee perspective is integrated into governmental, UN Agencies’,
local and international organisations’ on-going and future development

UNHCR will gradually focus on capacity building activities aimed at
the inclusion of refugees in state policies for social welfare and
universal health care systems.

UNHCR will also work with GoA on strengthening the social worker’s
network and outreach services by building the capacity of civil

Armenia has ratified the Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as
well as all relevant Human Rights instruments. In 1999 the Armenian
Law on Refugees was adopted. In your opinion, is the legislative
field sufficient?

The new Law on Refugees and Asylum entered into force in January
2009, which is in close compliance with European and International
standards. Further implementation modalities and drafting of bylaws
are being done in cooperation with SMS.

Furthermore, refugee law studies have been integrated in the curricula
of eight universities in Armenia and four Legal Aid Clinics (Yerevan
State University, Open University of Armenia, Gavar University and
Gyumri University) have been established in order to provide free of
charge legal assistance to asylum seekers, refugees and the vulnerable.

Reception capacity for asylum seekers in Armenia has been expanded
and partnership with the government on border management has
been strengthened. Training and awareness raising activities on
asylum-sensitive border management are also on going.

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