Armenia: Syrian refugees find a home away from home
For Syrians with Armenian origins fleeing civil war, Armenia has become a new home away from Syria’s turmoil. Thousands of Syrians – many of them third-generation refugees from a century-old conflict – have been able to find refuge in their ancestral homeland.
SOS Children’s Villages Armenia embarks on the fourth year of its emergency relief programme (ERP) aimed at supporting the integration of Syrian families and children. So far, the programme has offered a wide range of emergency assistance and integration projects and has reached more than 460 families and 800 children.
While the Armenian government has taken measures to ease the integration of Syrian-Armenians by providing access to health care and education, SOS Armenia has been working to fill the gaps of the support system to ensure families feel at home.
To name but a few, SOS Armenia’s ERP offers financial assistance for shelters to families with housing problems, advanced health care and scholarships for first-year university students. Health support includes medication, consultations and treatments. Among beneficiaries there are children with special needs receiving the necessary specialised care.
A warm welcome
The exodus of Syrian refugees has reminded Armenians of their own history and wars. Many families in this small Caucasus country of 3 million people have welcomed refugees warmly and offered to host them in their homes.
“Syrian-Armenians enrich our culture, I am really happy we can welcome these people here in Armenia and that SOS Children's Villages can support the families and children”, said Ashot Kocharyan, National Director of SOS Armenia.
For Ashot, a great value of welcoming Syrian refugees has been the new cultural diversity introduced to the country. He adds that the new businesses, shops and cafes opened by Syrians have introduced a new standard of quality of services offered in Yerevan, capital of Armenia.
The integration of Syrian children into the local school system has also been a challenge. Often, children were out of school for two or three years because of the conflict. Schools, however, are instructed to prepare for these challenges and SOS Armenia supports children by purchasing their text books, stationery, school bags and sport uniforms.
Challenges for families
In spite of their strong work ethic and creativity, Syrian-Armenian families still struggle with economic integration in Armenia. High unemployment rates, lack of financial resources and bureaucratic hurdles to start a business remain big challenges. SOS Armenia therefore seeks to support families, by offering crucial financial assistance to start businesses.
In spite of these challenges, the integration into Armenia has been comparatively seamless. For many Syrians, Armenia represents not only an ancient homeland and familiar cultural environment, but also a country with favourable immigration policies.
“The security that Syrian-Armenians get here in Armenia, they cannot get in any other European country. There is no xenophobia or reluctance to accept the newcomers, after all – this is their homeland”, said Ashot.
More about our work in Armenia
The emergency response programme in Armenia, which began in 2014, currently provides:
Find out more about our work in Armenia
More stories about our work for refugee children and families
- In-kind support including clothing, shoes, food, powdered milk and diapers.
- Financial support for rents and utility costs in accordance with needs for four months and in exceptional cases up to eight months.
- Health care including medication, consultations and check-ups and specialized care for children with special needs.
- Education support including purchasing of stationery, school books and sports clothing.
- Scholarships to first-year university students.
- Support for economic sustainability, i.e. families starting a business.