Currently, the three families from Iraq already have refugee status in Armenia. They can enjoy all the rights and become a beneficiary of aid projects provided to other persons who previously migrated to Armenia and obtained refugee status. Now Armenia has the third highest acceptance of refugees in Europe. Syrian Armenians make the major part of the refugees in Armenia.
Boris Murazi, Head of the Sinjar Yazidi National Union, said the members of these three families have promptly obtained refugee status in Armenia without bureaucratic hurdles.
The Armenian Office of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, in cooperation with the Public Journalism Club and the Media Center, held a discussion entitled "Yazidis from Iraq Seeking Refuge in Armenia" on September 30.
The local Yazidi community has solved the migrants’ housing problem. “They live in the flats belonging to local Yazidis who have left Armenia for other countries. The country has enough opportunities to host and accommodate Yazidi refugees and help them integrate. However, the state should decide how much money it can allocate to solve the migrants' problems," said Murazi. The Yazidi community will also help the migrants, Murazi added, and there are 23 Yazidi-inhabited villages and there are numerous empty houses there. “The owners of the houses will willingly provide them to refugees,” he said.
Presently, the 19 members of the three Yazidi families that migrated to Armenia are still in Iraq. They were unable to cross the border and move to Armenia because they lost their passports in the war. “Now the Armenian government should facilitate their travel to Armenia. The Armenian-Turkish border is closed and it is almost impossible to move to Armenia via Turkey and Georgia. Georgia has a visa regime with Iraq. The only way to travel to Armenia is by air. So, they need financial support to buy air tickets and they also need the Armenian Government's willingness to bring them to Armenia,” said Hamlet Smoyan, member of the Sinjar Yazidi National Union.
Though the Yazidi community has already applied to the relevant state structures of Armenia to find a comprehensive solution, the issue has become more complicated. “We have been told it is a long process since the National Security Service is to check each individual separately,” said Smoyan.
Hayder Rashid Hamo, who has migrated to Armenia and has been granted refugee status, said that 5 members of his family are still in Iraq. He expects the Armenian Government to help him bring his family to Armenia. He also noted that the Yazidi refugees in Armenia have to address a number of challenges such as inability to speak Armenian, culture differences, education and social security problems, etc.
“I live in a Yazidi’s flat. I take care of the area of a Yazidi sacred site and this is how I make a living. We expect the Armenian Government to help us. Were it not for the community’s support, I would not know what to do,” he said.
Nver Sargsyan, Senior Programme Associate at the UNHCR Armenia Office, prioritized raising the cultural awareness of the Armenian public to ensure the Yazidi families’ integration. “People often think Yazidis are Muslims. Integration is a problem for the host country rather than for refugees. Another problem is the lack of bank accessibility, and we are trying to solve or at least ease the process through discussions,” Sargsyan said, noting that Yazidis cannot transfer their money.
He recalled that the Armenian Government provided 100,000 US dollars to Yazidis in Iraq. Hripsime Kirakosyan, President of the Mission Armenia NGO, said that the UN and OXFAM enroll the refugees in aid projects that help them with utility payments, medical expenses, food, etc. “People need refugee status to make use of these aid projects. In this case, the migrants from Iraq already have that status, so they can be involved in these projects,” said Kirakosyan.
The Armenian Government, Kirakosyan believes, should pay more attention to this problem since the international organizations may cut the aid. “The migration to Europe is huge. It’s clear that those countries will no longer be able to provide international organizations with big funds to solve the refugees’ problems worldwide,” she said.
Arshaluis Mghdesyan, Editor-Coordinator
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