168 Zham, Armenia
March 28 2013

by Babken Tunyan

[Translated from Armenian]

Could anyone have thought that it is possible to solve Armenia's
most serious socioeconomic problems, including that of migration,
with 1m euros. If such an idea has never existed, let me say that it
is not a fantastic one.

Let me present the events one by one.

The European Union has provided 1m euros to Armenia to support
"circulating migration and re-integration". The procedure [of
concluding the agreement] took place on 26 March. Ara Petrosyan, the
first deputy minister of labour and social affairs of the Republic
of Armenia, and (?Sarah Korad), the president of the People in
Need organization, signed an appropriate declaration the day before
yesterday [26 March].

The amount is provided within the framework of a more comprehensive
programme: "Target Initiative for Armenia". (Let us note that the
European Union provided another 3m euros to assist the solution of
problems linked to migration.)

For what purpose will these 1m euros be spent and what issues will
they resolve?

Declared elements of migration programme

Deputy Minister Petrosyan answered this question and presented the
directions of the programme. The first direction, please be attentive,
is prevention of migration. How are they going to do that?

According to Petrosyan, for this purpose, it is necessary to carry
out correct social and psychological work with people, who intend to
leave the country, but have not left yet.

"To propose something that will keep a person back from going abroad.

To offer a person concrete employment and a concrete job." That is
to make them abandon the idea to migrate, in other words - to convince.

This is not a joke, this is official interpretation.

As they say, the solution is clever in its simplicity. It remains to
be surprised, why the Armenian authorities have not yet thought of
appointing a person, who will be convincing people being stationed
in the airport, bus stations and Armenia's border checkpoints. They
would give this person some kind of remuneration, but instead would
avoid migration-related criticism.

However, it turns out that the programme has such directions as well -
plan B, as they say in American movies.

If convincing people fails, if these people decided to leave for sure,
then, according to the deputy minister, "in such a case, they should
be provided with all the information necessary for labour migrants
and the legislation of the countries, where they are to work, and
guarantees of protection of their rights in those states".

That is, if convincing not to migrate succeeds, it will be very good.

If not, then we will provide every kind of assistance so that the
migrant adapts very quickly, feels himself or herself protected and
does not come back.

[Passage omitted: a joke on migration in Armenia]

However, this is not the end yet.

If citizens, who are clearly determined to migrate, successfully leave
within the framework of the programme, then the programme intends to
encourage the return of Armenian citizens living abroad instead. The
programme's second direction envisages steps aimed at re-integration
of people, who want to return to Armenia, and to provide them with
apartments and income. Let us note that this is envisaged in the
framework of the same 1m euros.

Finally, the programme's fourth direction envisages developing
institutional capacity in Armenia, setting up resource centres,
where people will be able to receive detailed information before
going abroad and prior to returning to the motherland.

Money spent for "unclear purpose" previously

By reading these lines, one almost believes that it is possible to
work real miracles with 1m euros. However, the bitter experience of
the previous years does not let us believe in miracles, unfortunately.

One of the people responsible for the programme leaked the information
that this initiative is not new, that it started a few years ago,
and that Armenia has already received 9m euros within the framework
of this initiative.

We know that about 200,000 people have emigrated from Armenia over the
past five years [2007-2012], and this number is growing as time passes.

That is, the efficiency of such programmes is in fact low, and 9m
euros have been spent for an unclear purpose and 1m euros would not
suffice to convince even 50 families to stay in Armenia.

True reason behind migration programme

So what is the reason for the enthusiasm?

To tell the truth, the reason is that mainly conferences and seminars
with their "coffee breaks" and the publication of training materials,
brochures, and fliers is envisaged within the framework of such
programmes. Armenian organizations involved in such programmes manage
to earn some money in the form of grants in addition to spending
their time pleasantly.

Are Europeans unaware of all this? Of course, they are. Why is then
money spent on such programmes?

It would be naive to think that they do not sleep at night,
thinking of the demographic situation in Armenia. These people are
simply concerned about their own situation and try to cut down the
level of migration into their countries - keeping migrants in their
motherlands. The success of these programmes should be the issue of
concern for grant donors.