Armenian civilian society organizations have rolled up their sleeves to find a solution for the shelter problem of the 15 thousand Syrian refugees in the country. The #RootsForRefugees campaign that will begin in the 2nd week of June will provide rent support for refugees trying to rebuild their lives in cities. Campaign organizers have called on Diaspora Armenians to contribute to the campaign.
A part of the 4 million refugees who have been forced to leave Syria because of the civil war that has entered its 5th year are trying to build their new life in Armenia. According to the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published in March, there are more than 15 thousand Syrian refugees living in Armenia. Refugees escaping cities with a high Armenian population such as Aleppo, Kessab, Qamishli and Damascus are trying to cling onto life in Yerevan and other areas. Yet life for refugees is difficult in Armenia, as it is in other countries. Civilian society organizations Oxfam Armenia, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Armenia Office, Armenian Redwood Project and Syrian Armenian Relief Fund (SARF) have come together to find a solution for the shelter problem of refugees caused especially by high rents. The campaign titled #RootsForRefugees aims to establish a fund that will provide rent support for flats refugees rent out.
Life in the city centre rather than ghettoes
Within the scope of the “refugee support program” carried out by the Armenia Ministry of Diaspora, in addition to health and education services, housing estates are being built for refugees, like the ‘New Aleppo’ mass housing project in the Ashtarak area outside Yerevan. However, Armenian Redwood Project Director Raffi Arzouhaldjian states that they support refugees living and working in the city centre rather than ghettos in order to facilitate their integration into society. The goal of the campaign first presented in February 2015 is to provide rent support for 800 families.
Raffi Arzouhaldjian says that Syrians living in the city and working mostly in the services industry have not been received negatively apart from a few incidents, and that they feel secure. However, the problems refugees face are the same all over: “Many of them continue to live with their traumas. The money families managed to bring with them has finished, now they are experiencing great poverty. Yerevan is a relatively expensive city, and refugees spend a large part of their income on rent. Rent support will provide a practical solution for this problem.”
Support from Armenian Diaspora 100 years later
The #RootsForRefugees campaign that will begin in the first week of June aims to reach the Armenian Diaspora for support. In explaining the importance of providing support, Raffi Arzouhaldjian underlines how the catastrophe that took place a 100 years ago is being repeated: “The American Committee for Relief in the Near East (ACRNE) was founded 100 years ago to provide support for those who were left orphaned, and without homes in Syrian deserts during and after the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Diaspora will provide the same support for the innocent refugees from Syria who are suffering the same fate 100 years ago. What we want to do is, rather than cold indifference, to look at the lives of Syrians with empathy.”