Armenian Asylum Seeking Families Hardly Let Themselves Be Deported
The exodus of migrants from Armenia in the South Caucasus to Russia and Europe is not something new as compared to those from Africa or Syria. Nevertheless, the problem of illegal migrants in Europe from Armenia remains pressing for many governments and they do not know how to cope with this fairly old problem. Armenians seeking asylum in Europe often fabricate documents to pretend as victims of hostilities in the former Soviet space by presenting fake documents, as numerous investigations into the problem revealed. Armenian migrants are said to often get rid of their personal documents or misstate their identity date to make things complicated and avoid being sent back to their homeland. The latest report from the Dutch Nos news agency sheds light on cunning ways Armenian migrants are resorting to legalize their stay in the Netherlands. The Institute for Strategic Analysis (STRATI) is presenting the report in English from its original Dutch version.
Armenian asylum seeking families hardly let themselves be deported
It is hard to deport Armenian asylum seekers from the country. Those who come from Armenia and apply for a refugee status often resist against their deportation. They are more tenacious than other asylum seekers who are rejected.
For example, Armenians often give wrong names in their asylum applications, a study of Solid Road, an organization that guides out-of-court settlements of Armenian families when they eventually return voluntarily, revealed this. The researchers spoke with employees of the 'family location' in Amersfoort, where rejected asylum seekers are prepared for their deportation. They also talked to lawyers, psychologists and volunteers who are active in this location. In addition, they analyzed national data from the Repatriation and Departure Service.
“What is clear is that 90 percent of Armenians make asylum applications under false names," said one of the family location employees. Moreover, they resort to numerous identity frauds, feigned illnesses and threats of suicide.
Armenians almost never get a protected refugee status. Of the Armenians, who have applied for asylum in the past three years, about 10 percent have managed to get it. In most cases, the requests of Armenians were rejected because Armenia is not considered an unsafe country.
There are currently five family locations for rejected families in the Netherlands. In the past four years, there have been 181 Armenian families, consisting of about 700 people. Armenian families are the largest group in the family locations. Some 389 of the 700 Armenians, who have been placed in the family locations, have now left. Some 64 percent of them left for an unknown destination.
They may still be in the Netherlands without valid residence documents. Some 15 percent voluntarily left the Netherlands. They received help from the International Organization for Migration and other aid organizations. Some 21 percent, or 81 people, was forced to leave the country.
Several organizations are trying to help Armenian asylum seekers with their return to Armenia. They note that many asylum seekers are well informed of Dutch procedures in advance.
'No' is also an answer!
"Please do not let the procedure take that long," said Gevorg Babayan of Mission Possible. This foundation helps Armenians who have to return to their homes to build their future. Gevorg says "that is deadly for people, especially for children." “No” is also an answer."
He calls on Armenians not to travel endlessly and live in uncertainty, but to return to Armenia. Nevertheless, he understands that asylum seekers do everything to stay. "Everybody wants the best for his children, and you are told in advance how to tackle it, if you want to stretch your stay, and if you show travel documents, you will be more easily expelled."
"They do not want to think about a plan B. They keep hoping for a residence permit against all statistics, and only when illegality with the whole family is the only option, voluntary return becomes “the least bad option", the researchers write.
The age of the children often plays a role in the willingness to really leave. The children of the Armenians who left voluntarily were often younger than 5.
Experts consider that Armenians often exaggerate their psychological problems. Sometimes, doctors unmask their lies. Often when they come to the Netherlands, they possess documents, stating that they have psychological problems. It is highly likely that they get this information already in Armenia.
One of the interviewed psychologists says that Armenian parents try to exaggerate their psychological states so that their children to get a refugee status. The psychologist says he has never seen Armenians become better. "They remain ill and also do little with behavioral advice."
Volunteers cooperating with refugees say that Armenians work closely with local churches as they are Christians. And churches turn a blind eye on Armenians who stay illegally in the country, going into hiding from agencies engaged in deportation, hoping for a general pardon as was in 2007.
Moreover, the state blames several churches for giving false reports about Armenians. So, one of the churches accommodated an Armenian woman for six weeks, however, later despite suspension of the relevant procedures, the church rented an apartment for her. In the end, that woman stayed there for 10 years without permission.
Solid Road advises aid workers and agencies working with Armenians to start directly on a plan B as soon as they apply for asylum. Children must receive tutoring in their own language. Many Armenian children at the family locations speak reasonably Armenian but cannot read or write well. Now parents who have to leave in the Netherlands can attend a vocational training here. But Solid Road recommends that they do so only after returning to Armenia. Finally, Solid Road proposes to monitor people in Armenia for up to two years after their return.
This can provide more insight into the success or failure of reintegration in Armenia. Moreover, it may perhaps answer the question why families sometimes return to Western Europe again. The Ministry of Justice and Security recognizes that it is difficult to deport families, not just in the case of Armenian families. Whether fraud is more common among Armenians than among asylum seekers from other countries, the Ministry cannot say.