As the situation in Syria escalates, alerts come from Armenian Syrians who want to move to Armenia but have no money to travel. Lragir.am held an interview with the deputy minister for the Diaspora Serge Srapionyan on this issue. Mr. Srapionyan, we learn from Armenians moving to Armenia, as well as those in Syria that many people want to move to Armenia but cannot afford to travel so they expect help from the Armenian government and benefactors. For example, Aleppo Charitable Organization has announced that 600 Armenian Syrians have turned to them for assistance to move to Armenia. What does the Ministry of Diaspora think about it?
The Ministry of Diaspora has no time to think, it acts. First, I am surprised by the statement of Aleppo Charitable Organization, we don’t know where they took that number 600. We collaborate with them, I have the list of 2015, 101 people applied to Halep Union to move to Armenia. I had requested to share the letters, there is no such a list yet. They have only thirty letters who had applied to move to Armenia. We also have the personal data of the same people. We talk to the heads of the national organizations, we have 5-10 conversations with the Armenian organizations in Syria. Not that there are no people who want to but there are problems with bringing here these people who have a wish, and it is not only the money. And what else matters?
Raising money for twenty-thirty people is not a problem. It is not so easy for the citizens of another country in Armenia. It supposes paperwork. Their and our government agencies must meet these requirements. When there is such a need, we accelerate it. People have to prove that they are of Armenian extract to move from Syria to Armenia. Most family names are Arabic or Turkish. We check the personal data of people with such family names. We have arranged the documents of three families in only 4 hours, and people reached here. The rumors about total indifference, that people come here, they have nowhere to go, have no opportunities are extremely exaggerated. How many letters a day do you receive from Armenian Syrian families which are willing to move to Armenia but need money and document support?
There are days when we get no letters, there are days when we get 3-4 letters. How many Syrian Armenian families come to Armenia every day?
Yesterday three families arrived who were greeted by our staff members. The members of those three families told reporters that all Armenian Syrians want to move to Armenia if they have money because it is dangerous to live there.
You know what, the members of those three families do not have the full picture. They hear one or two or three people say so, they think this is general. Of course, there are individuals. Who said that a person caught under exploding shells will not want to escape it? One cannot deny this. However, there is an issue here, most of them do not want. Believe me, our staff member returned from there yesterday, had meetings in Syria for three-four days, distributed aid, witnessed a lot, saw people who want to move to Armenia. Most of them want to move to a safer place in Aleppo or Syria. In one of the relatively safe towns in Syria which is not far from Aleppo, 250 families increased to 850 Armenian families, they wanted so, we knew and we helped them. Now these 600 families that arrived do not want to come to Armenia, do they? Or maybe they want but they cannot afford?
This is not true, this is made-up information. There is all kind of assistance for whoever wants to move to Armenia. You tell me, what are we supposed to do? Send a plane a day and bring one person? Can we afford to do that? Therefore, we say go to these agencies, we have named 7 of them, to apply for all kinds of assistance, they will be met at the airport by our employees on duty who greet all the planes flying from the East and inquire whether there are Armenian Syrians there. We advise those who who have come, we have asked benefactors to provide temporary accommodation in Silikyan district, we have asked the heads of villages in the vicinity of Yerevan to provide accommodation for these people. You think we are indifferent, we don’t want to do anything? We do not lie, what’s the use of doing so? You assure that there is no funding issue in case an Armenian Syrian family wants to move to Armenia.
I did not say so, I said there are solutions. How do you imagine the state budget expenses? There should be a justification to allocate the money from the state budget. They speak about 600 people but de facto there are 27 people. When we write about 600, it becomes a big amount, doesn’t it? Please tell me how long it will take to resolve the issue of a family which wants to move to Armenia but cannot afford to do that.
As soon as we learn about that family, their transportation locally and to Armenia, depending on the flight schedule as well, may take 3-4 days. How many applications have been received from Armenian Syrians to move to Armenia?
At the moment there is only one letter at the Ministry of Diaspora, an Armenian Syrian has turned to us to help transport his two sisters to Armenia. The letter has been accepted, they have been contacted, and they will be transported to Armenia on these days. Do you have ways of learning what part of the families in Syria want to move to Armenia? Because people are prone to believe the arrivals that many people want to come to Armenia.
We do not have binding ways but we have cooperation. There are about 8,000-10,000 Armenians in Aleppo. I do not have a specific number but 150-200 want to move [to Armenia]. The consulate sends us the data, those who have applied to them. The Armenian spiritual council and other organizations based in Syria send to us. It is not advisable to publish numbers but it is not a big number. So, even if we have them fly in one plane, their number is still small. People can’t cut their ties. What can we do? Shall we force them to come here? It would have been easier for us if all the 8,000-10,000 Armenians in Aleppo decided to come all together. Of course, we would do. How can our country abandon them? However, it is their decision. After all, they are citizens of another country.