Why Armenian repatriates in no hurry to return to their homeland

Armenian Prime Minister in Los Angeles. Repatriates are welcomed in Armenia with open arms, but they are in no hurry to return
Armenian Prime Minister in Los Angeles. Repatriates are welcomed in Armenia with open arms, but they are in no hurry to return

Recently, there's been much talk about repatriation in Armenia. Usually repatriation is more profitable than ordinary migration, since repatriates are close-minded people with common historical archetypes of thinking. But in Armenia, the implementation of the idea may encounter significant difficulties. According to head of the Department of Armenian communities of Europe at the High Commissioner's Office Karen Avanesyan, on July 1, a pilot project will be launched to "reverse brain drain" and use the diaspora's potential in managing Armenia. The program is scheduled for a year, during which the authorities plan to test projects that in the future should become the basis for the repatriation of compatriots, many of whom left Armenia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

When developing national programs to return compatriots, the Armenian authorities are faced with a multi-level problem of creating the conditions for their adaptation. It is about access to citizenship, access to land and employment.

These problems have never been resolved systematically in Armenia, especially at the regional level, therefore, the similar programs for the return of compatriots proposed earlier did not actually work.

There is no scheme to come to the republic and immediately obtain Armenian citizenship. It seems that a country with the outflow of the population turning into a global problem should have implemented such a scheme a long time ago, but the Armenian bureaucracy has created an infinite number of constantly changing documents.

Housing and land issues are associated with moral and ethical problems. No one will give the returnee family the best land or the best apartment. They have to be content with what housing and land resources they are given.

The allocation of land issue can be resolved much faster if the repatriate expresses a desire to settle in the occupied territories in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, this program is not in demand, since few people are ready to move to territories with the high threat of escalation of the military conflict, and the problem of employment is even more acute than in Armenia.

Issues related to the education system are also difficult. It is symbolic that the proposed program aims to "reverse brain drain", since the republic's political elite admits that many talented people left the republic over the past quarter century - people could not realize their potential within Armenia. The level of higher education in Armenia is low, the programs are weak, students are poorly motivated and focused on study and work abroad.

The leadership of the republic makes efforts to support the development of interstate programs and bilateral agreements with more than 30 countries, including to implement scholarship programs. There are such programs with Russia, the Czech Republic, Iran, Slovenia, China, the U.S., France, Belgium and other countries. But the question before repatriates is why come back and look for a future in a country whose educational system is inferior to foreign peers, and students who have studied for one or two years will look for the opportunity to study at more prestigious universities abroad.

As for entrepreneurs, they are also very skeptical of repatriation, since there is still a high degree of clan ownership and corruption in a semi-blockade country. Doing business means being under high control at all stages of the production, transportation and sale of goods and services. Most of the areas are monopolized, and those starting a business are forced to compete with large companies. Due to the economic and transport blockade, shipment costs are very high. Opening a business in Armenia requires a trusted team, since it is problematic to find experienced and competent specialists there - most qualified personnel leave for other countries. Due to the difficult economic situation in the country, the crime rate is still high, and those starting a business are forced to pay attention to the problem of their own security.

Finally, the unstable political situation in the region and the high risk of escalation due to the unresolved conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh adversely affect Armenian repatriation as a whole. The largest outflow of the population was recorded in the first years of independence, during the years of fierce armed confrontation and the first years after the signing of the truce. According to the official data of the National Statistical Service, 586,800 people left Armenia back then. Fears for their future and the future of their children still force the Armenian population to live in constant readiness to migrate. In such conditions, the idea of repatriation seems unattractive.

During the April 2016 escalation, the unresolved conflict drew attention to itself again, as a result of which Armenia learned once again that loud words of politicians and diplomats do not guarantee peace.

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