The Armenian Redwood Project (ARP) and OxYGen Foundation announced about successful completion of the last phase of the emergency housing-assistance program in Armenia for Syrian-Armenian refugees.
The Diaspora intervention via housing assistance project aiming to meet the emergency needs of the persons who were displaced from Syria and found refuge in Armenia was initiated in March 2015 based on the already ongoing rental subsidy scheme operated by UNHCR through its partner, Mission Armenia social NGO.
According to the Ministry of the Diaspora, about 22,000 Syrian refugees have found refuge in Armenia since the start of the war. Since 2015 up to now 423 families have received rental subsidies through various extension phases of the housing assistance project implemented with funds provided by ARP, SARF, Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, Oxfam GB, Jinishian Memorial Foundation and Mission East. Various phases of the project were implemented by Oxfam Armenia, OxYGen Foundation, Mission Armenia and Mission East.
Now that the emergency response phase of the crisis has ended, the government of Armenia has initiated an integration strategy for the Syrians who have requested shelter in Armenia & received Armenian citizenship.
An agreement has been reached with the UNHCR on transferring 47 most vulnerable beneficiary families of the Project to Mission Armenia to continue supporting them through UNHCR funds starting June 2018.
"Humanitarian aid is not a long-term solution. As actors of the Armenian Diaspora, our timely intervention was aimed at supporting Armenia when it faced an influx of refugees. The government has since had time to develop its integration plan” said Raffy Ardhaldjian of ARP. “Together with UNHCR, we are proud that we have prevented homelessness in Armenia and provided safe homes to hundreds of families to rebuild new lives”.
During the closure event Margarita Hakobyan, Country director of Oxfam in Armenia, the board of trustees of OxYGen Foundation, mentioned: “Today is the closure of the Project: Emergency housing-assistance for Syrian-Armenian refugees and I would like that from now and then there aren’t any disasters and no need for emergency assistance. We started our cooperation with Armenian Redwood Project, with Raffi Ardhaldjian in 2015, joining our efforts to assist Syrian Armenians, which is also in line with the humanitarian mandate of Oxfam. During these 3 years 423 families, thus 627 family members have received rental subsidies through various extension phases of the project. The project covered winterization costs for more than hundred families. Also, we had a small pilot which was aiming to help in integration processes. Within the projects several Syrian Armenians had an opportunity to develop their skills and have a better chance to get a job in the market”.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Christoph Bierwirth, UNHCR Representative in Armenia emphasized that ‘’the scope of the multi-faced challenges related to the integration of persons displaced due to the conflict in Syria who sought and found protection in Armenia requires the engagement of many actors, government, international organisations, faith-based organisations, and the civil society”. In the Armenian context, he noted, in particular, the important role of Diaspora organizations and individual Diaspora philanthropists.
‘’Benevolent actors’ engagement does not only offer targeted crucial material support but also contributes to a welcoming atmosphere and establishment of hope in a future. It also leads to a much-appreciated perception among the displaced of someone truly caring for them, of being not alone in one of the most difficult phases life can bring’’, Mr. Bierwirth said and referred to a quote by Bill Gates: ‘’Effective philanthropy requires a lot of time and creativity – the same kind of focus and skills that building a business requires”. Mr. Bierwirth expressed his most sincere gratitude for Mr. Raffy Ardhaldjian who fully matched these criteria of an effective philanthropist and who not only brought resources but also his thoughts, business experience, network, humanitarian enthusiasm and determination to the project.
Besides direct housing benefits to refugees, the ARP’s efforts with the support of its donors & philanthropists were able to set up cooperation modalities with UNHCR Armenia, advocacy on behalf of refugees with government agencies & provide specialized training to social workers servicing Syrian refugees in Armenia.
The solution to the housing issue of Syrian-Armenians remains crucial, as it will contribute to the possibility of their permanent residence in Armenia. All eyes will be focused on the Ministry of the Diaspora in Armenia as it unfolds its long-awaited refugee integration strategy. The ARP and its partners hope that the Government of Armenia shall adequately address needs through a package of social, economic, health, housing and cultural policies to refugees in transit who long for a life of dignity.