YEREVAN, JANUARY 3, ARTSAKHPRESS. Since 2012, Repat Armenia has been supporting the repatriation process of skilled specialists, developing favorable environment and contributing to the integration of repatriates in Armenia.
ARMENPRESS spoke with Repat Armenia Co-founder and Executive Director Vardan Marashlyan, Communications Coordinator Ishkhan Saakyan and Kristine Baroyan, a repatriate from Russia on the organization’s priorities, results and programs.
Vardan Marashlyan moved to Armenia from Russia in 2010. He served as Deputy Minister of Diaspora for 2,5 years. Realizing the importance of repatriation, Marashlyan and his friends decided to create a foundation which would develop a support system for repatriates and would further help the government in developing a repatriation policy.
“We started the work with 12 people. Some of us were thinking about launching an information website or system that would support repatriates, while the rest of us attached importance to founding a concrete organization that would have employees to help those who want to move to Armenia. As a result we joined forces and Repat Armenia was born. That period of time also coincided with the inflow of our compatriots from Syria, but we launched the organization voluntarily to consciously assist repatriation,” Marashlyan said.
Repat Armenia experts clearly realize that repatriation is a difficult process. No one makes such a decision at once. People first of all prefer to know Armenia better and they do so through volunteering, short-term educational courses and other programs.
Marashlyan says there are sectors in Armenia where there is a gap of certain experts but salaries are not attractive. “The only positive thing after the pandemic is that the world has become global. Most of the people can work remotely. We saw this during the inflow of Russians. People are moving to Armenia but the product they create is being sold abroad. There is a demand for specialists in marketing, sales export, professional management and high technology sectors in Armenia. We are seeing that local organizations are ready to pay serious money to those who can bring qualitative change,” he said, referring to the employment issue of repatriates.
Repat Armenia is cooperating with different bodies: it is working with the Office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, the Migration Service, 818 Consulting and other organizations regarding issues such as repatriation environment, legislation and the media sector.
Repat Armenia has also launched a network of repatriates – a closed group on Facebook connecting over 12,000 people who try to help each other in various issues. Repatriates or those who intend to repatriate ask questions in the group and receive practical answers. Many are from the same city, have the same profession, experience the same issues or concerns.
Repat Armenia is focused on assisting repatriates in finding employment or supporting in launching their own business and is doing everything it can to promote them in the Armenian market.
“In the end of the previous year and in early 2022 we implemented a pilot Employment Support Programme. During the first programme 23 people from Lebanon moved to Armenia. 18 of them settled in Armenia and are employed, one of them launched their own business. We implemented the second program for our Russian-speaking compatriots. 30 of the 34 people are in Armenia and all of them are either employed or have their own business. Within the framework of the programme we provided the air ticket to Armenia, 100,000 drams monthly support and participation in Armenian-language courses,” Repat Armenia Co-founder and Executive Director Vardan Marashlyan said.
1000 people apply to Repat Armenia every year. Most of them are highly educated persons aged 25-40 who have interesting ideas and good stamina. Most repatriates are from Russia, the United States, Lebanon, Canada, Iran, Syria, France and Australia.
“It is difficult to say how many people repatriated with our support since 2012 because we don’t have a law on repatriation, the state doesn’t have a repatriation support system. There is no status, hence there is no statistics. We estimate that 2000 to 3000 Armenians move to Armenia annually on a voluntary principle, but we get applications often from people who move several years later on. They visit our events and our office, follow our online discussions, but the decision on repatriating isn’t always made swiftly. In some cases it takes years,” Marashlyan said. He said that demands for serious qualitative change were set before them after the 44-Day War of 2020. According to him, the challenges facing Armenia and the Armenian nation are very serious. While implementing the pilot program Repat Armenia holds interviews with applicants to understand their professional capabilities and motives for repatriation. When asked when they made the decision to move to Armenia, every fifth applicant answered after 2018, while every third said after 2020. Marashlyan said the applicants are consciously making the decision to live in Armenia.
“I dream that one day in cooperation with the private sector and the government we will develop the kind of system through which 100,000 Armenians would come to Armenia annually, get connected with their homeland and consider it as an important part of their identity. I dream of a system that would bring 80,000 Armenians to their homeland to obtain professional experience, that would bring 20,000 Armenians who will settle here in Armenia. In that case we’d have a circulatory system with the right amount of pressure. When we look at the Armenia-Diaspora relations and think of Armenia as the heart, we have to state that it is providing low blood pressure for the circulatory system. If a system were to exist that would bring the abovementioned number of people to Armenia we would also contribute to the Diaspora getting less assimilated because it has its own problems too,” Marashlyan said.
Repat Armenia Communications Coordinator Ishkhan Saakyan is a repatriate himself. He came to Armenia ten years ago. Saakyan considers repatriation to be a difficult process and says that each repatriate has their own issues. “We provide them with consultation. Every repatriate can contact us through our website at repatarmenia.org or our official Facebook account, or by visiting our office. The consultation is free and lasts for 30 minutes. I answer all questions of the repatriates here: how to find a job, which websites to use for searching for a job, how to find an apartment, how to contact lawyers who will help in relocating business or shipping goods to Armenia and so on,” Saakyan said, noting that most questions are employment-related.
Repatriates can send their resumes through the official website of Repat Armenia. The resumes are studied, translated if necessary, updated and then the organization tries to find a corresponding employment with support of 818 Consulting.
For contributing to integration of repatriates, Repat Armenia organizes various events enabling the repatriates to get to know one another, communicate and make friends. Sightseeing tours are also organized. Moreover, Repat Armenia holds work meetings between the repatriate and a given organization for an interview and the chances of getting hired increases.
“We also provide the repatriates with medical insurance, membership cars for discounted visits to restaurants and hotels. The list also includes restaurants owned by repatriates themselves. As a result we have mutual support,” Saakyan said.
Kristine Baroyan is a repatriate born in Stepanavan. She was four when they moved to Russia. She returned to Armenia to attend a wedding with friends and then decided to obtain an Armenian passport and also find a job in the meanwhile. She applied to Repat Armenia upon learning about the organization.
“I was invited for an interview during which they got to know my professional skills and requirements, they gave me useful advice on specificities of finding employment and only about a week later I passed an interview at my present-day employer. Two days later I received a job offer from them and I made my final decision on staying in Armenia. I work in the IT sector,” Kristine said.
Kristine Baroyan says she loves the Armenian nature, and then the people’s attitude and hospitality. “I was surprised by the kindness of people. There are everyday things which seemed strange to me, but as time passed you adapt and understand why people think this or that way, but you want to change everything for the better. In some cases you succeed, in some cases you don’t,” Kristine Baroyan said.
Photos by Repat Armenia