Nalbandian Speaks at UN General Assembly on Refugees and Migrants

On September 19, Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said the following statement at the High-level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to Address Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants:

Honorable Mr. President,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The convening of this meeting at such a high level indicates the growing prominence of the problem of migrants and refugees on the global agenda, including within the UN system and the strong determination to tackle it.

Armenia has been facing the challenges relating to refugee hosting for almost 3 decades. In the late 80s and beginning of 90s Armenians were massacred and expelled from their homes in Azerbaijan and found refuge in Armenia. This year again, in early April Azerbaijan unleashed another large-scale military offensive against Nagorno-Karabakh that resulted in a number of casualties among civilians and another wave of displacement.

In this context we would like to stress the significance of addressing the root causes of large movements of people through the prevention of conflicts and crisis situations, peaceful settlement of disputes and achievement of long-term political solutions. Likewise, we would like to highlight the importance of providing equal, prompt and unhindered access to international humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced persons in all affected parts of the world, without distinction to their current political status.

Mr. President,

Armenia is deeply concerned by the situation in our immediate neighborhood – the Middle East. On numerous occasions Armenia has condemned the crimes committed by DAESH and other terrorist groups, which threaten the people of the region and beyond. The war in Syria has a devastating impact on its civilian population, including national and religious minorities who face existential threats due to identity based crimes perpetrated by terrorists and foreign fighters.

The violence in the Middle East has not bypassed Syrian Armenians, many of whom lost their lives in terrorist attacks. The Armenian settlements, churches, schools and cultural institutions were destroyed. One hundred years ago Armenian refugees found shelter in many Arab countries after the Armenian Genocide. Today thousands of Armenians, together with other people of the Middle East, again are forced to abandon their places of residence. From Syria alone more than 20 thousand Armenians found refuge in Armenia, making our country the third largest recipient of Syrian refugees in Europe on per capita basis. Therefore, we have first-hand knowledge about what it means to be a refugee and to host refugees.

The challenges of receiving, accommodating and integrating refugees from Syria are high on the agenda of the Armenian Government. We have been offering a variety of protection options of accelerated asylum procedures, facilitated provision of residence permits and naturalization. The State supports them in setting up businesses, provides durable housing, free medical assistance and scholarships.

Armenia is committed to making its utmost to address the issues of Syrian refugees, however no one State can manage such large movements on its own. We believe that greater international cooperation is needed to assist host countries. To this end, we welcome the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and believe that the full implementation of our collective commitments, particularly those referring to a more equitable sharing of the burden and responsibility, could make a real difference for the benefit of refugees.

Thank you.

New Bill Will Tangibly Assist Genocide Victims in Syria and Iraq

Smith, Eshoo, Fortenberry, Franks introduce legislation to provide relief to victims, accountability for perpetrators

WASHINGTON, D.C.On September 8, Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE),  and Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced legislation to provide relief for survivors of the ISIS-perpetrated genocide against vulnerable religious and ethnic groups in Syria and Iraq, and to ensure that perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in those countries are punished.     

The Iraq and Syria Genocide Relief and Accountability Act of 2016 (H.R. 5961) directs the U.S. Administration to treat these heinous acts as the crimes that they are, and to prioritize supporting the criminal investigation, prosecution and conviction of perpetrators.     

“Mass murder and rape are not only human rights violations – they are also criminal acts that require careful investigation, documentation, and prosecution to bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Smith. “We need to support entities doing this work in the field, and close gaps in U.S. law so that our justice system can prosecute foreign perpetrators present in the U.S., as well as any Americans who commit such crimes.”     

Significantly, Smith said, “the legislation requires the U.S. State Department to create a “Priority Two” (“P-2”) designation for Iraqi and Syrian survivors of genocide, and other persecuted religious and ethnic groups in Iraq or Syria. Refugees who meet the P-2 criteria are able to apply overseas for resettlement in the United States without requiring a referral from the United Nations, an NGO, or a U.S. Embassy.”     

“Although a P-2 designation does not guarantee admission to the United States – applicants must still clear the same security screening as other refugees – it provides victims of genocide with a much-needed additional path to access the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” he said.     

The bill directs the U.S. Administration to provide vital assistance to internally displaced families including to all of the approximately 10,500 Christian IDP families in the Erbil region, which currently has received no funding from the U.S. Government or any other government.     

“So far, the Administration has failed to keep its promise to enable these genocide survivors to remain in Iraq and Syria. It is overlooking groups, like the Chaldean Catholic Archdiocese of Erbil, that are serving tens of thousands of survivors every day. If the needs of these communities are ignored, thousands of victims may have to leave their ancient homelands forever and never return,” Smith said.      

Finally the bill directs the U.S. Administration to identify warning signs of deadly violence against genocide survivors and other vulnerable religious and ethnic communities in Iraq or Syria; assess and address the humanitarian vulnerabilities, needs, and triggers that might force them to flee their homes; and ensure that the U.S. supports entities effectively serving genocide survivors, including faith-based entities.