YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The European Union announced on Tuesday 3 million euros ($3.3 million) in financial assistance to thousands of Armenian citizens of Syria who have taken refuge in Armenia in the last few years.
The allocation is part of the EU’s fresh 275 million-euro aid package for millions of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and other countries.
The European Commission said the sum set aside for Syrian Armenians living in their ancestral homeland will support them “by enhancing access to health and psychosocial services, improving housing conditions, increasing access to economic opportunities, and by facilitating the integration of schoolchildren and students.” A statement by the EU’s executive body gave no further details.
Syria was home to an estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians before the outbreak of the devastating civil war there five years ago. Only up to 10,000 of them reportedly remain in the war-ravaged country now.
More than 16,000 Syrian Armenians have fled to Armenia alone. Many of them have been struggling to make ends meet in the unemployment-stricken country.
Armenia’s cash-strapped government has been unable to provide them with significant material assistance. Nor has it managed until now to attract large-scale assistance to the migrants from external sources. The EU funding is the biggest foreign aid allocation to them to date.
Drawing on their business experience in Syria, some Syrian Armenians have opened small businesses such as restaurants and manufacturing firms in Armenia,. The Armenian government has encouraged that entrepreneurship by subsidizing business loans extended to them by local commercial banks.
Dozens of firms set up by Syrian Armenians demonstrated their products and services during a German-sponsored fair held in Yerevan in May 2016. The four-day exhibition was aimed at facilitating their economic integration in Armenia.