Policies governing migration are being improved
Armenia has experienced substantial change in its migration dynamics, causes and consequences, the groups directly or indirectly engaged in migration, as well as perceptions of the role of state regulation in solving these problems.
In the early 1990s, migration was not a priority for Armenian policy: it was regulated by the state mainly through legislation, i.e. the law on Citizenship, law on Foreigners, law on State Border, etc. The late 1990s and early 2000s saw this situation change. For the first time, state policy on migration in Armenia was formalised in the Concept of State Regulation of Migration in Armenia, adopted by the government in December 2000. The document lists the principles, major tasks, and mechanisms required, as well as the changes necessary to the legal and legislative sphere on migration. It also lists the state entities dealing with migration, as well as state migration policy implementation and productive administrative structures. The Armenian Government revised this concept paper in June 2004 to reflect the changes in the migration situation and new issues, including the demographic situation, national security, and Armenia’s sustainable human development principles. It aimed to reinforce human rights and the principles laid down in international documents. Two new priorities were added:
- 1. Preventing irregular migration from the Republic of Armenia and supporting the return and reintegration of Armenian citizens irregularly staying abroad.
- 2. Preventing smuggling and trafficking of humans from the Republic of Armenia and developing victim protection arrangements.
However, both concept papers contained gaps, most notably the lack of Action Plans which would have increased the practical implementation of the policy approaches set out. The concepts were also not evaluated from financial point of view, the mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the migration policy process were not defined.
This led to the development of a new concept paper: the Concept of State Regulation of Migration in the Republic of Armenia, approved by the government in December 2010. This aimed at regulating both emigration and immigration and was more focused on the harmonisation of the Armenian legislation and policy with international, and especially European, standards. It introduced new approaches to solving the main migration-related problems and listed 14 priority issues alongside the goals and main approaches and mechanisms for achieving the objectives of each priority:
- 1. Aligning the Armenian legislative framework and administrative system for migration regulation with the corresponding EU legislation and the best institutional structures of the Eu member states, taking into consideration national and state interests.
- 2. Developing an information system for registering migration flows.
- 3. Monitoring and evaluating migration policy, introducing a system for day-to-day review and adjustment on the basis of analysis and evaluation of the migration situation in Armenia.
- 4. Assisting Armenian nationals to return from foreign countries and reintegrate.
- 5. Preventing irregular migration originating in Armenia and improving the legislative framework for irregular migration.
- 6. Regulating the employment conditions of foreign nationals in Armenia, ensuring the priority right of Armenian nationals to employment vis-a-vis foreign nationals.
- 7. Protecting the rights and interests of Armenian citizens leaving for work abroad.
- 8. Implementing the integration of refugees forcibly deported from Azerbaijan in 1988-1992 into Armenian society.
- 9. Introducing a system of biometric passports and identity cards.
- 10. Improving the RA border management system.
- 11. Improving the asylum system.
- 12. Organising the fight against trafficking and protecting the victims of trafficking.
- 13. Regulating mass movements of the population in times of emergencies.
- 14. Mainstreaming the internal migration processes.
Immigration was not specifically addressed as a separate issue in the 2010 Policy Concept, probably due to the low levels of immigration into Armenia in the 2000s (Chobanyan, 2012).2 Nonetheless, two immigration issues were addressed in the 2010 Policy Concept: (1) improving the asylum system; and (2) ensuring effective integration of foreign nationals within Armenian society once they are granted a refugee status, as well as regulating the employment conditions of foreign nationals in Armenia.
An Action Plan for Implementation of the Policy Concept for the State Regulation of Migration in the Republic of Armenia in 2012-2016 was adopted in November 2011 to ensure the concept was implemented. The main plan points were aimed at ensuring conformity of Armenian legislation with EU legislation, as well as with key UN documents.3 However, this policy framework was significantly influenced by the recent shift of the RA government’s policy towards integration with the Russian-led Customs Union, and Armenia’s entry into the Eurasian Economic Union in early 2015. To accommodate these different political aims, the Armenian Government adopted the Action Plan for 2014-2016 on the Alignment of the Legislation of the Republic of Armenia Regulating the Area of Migration in the Republic of Armenia to International Standards, Including the Approaches and Principles Established in the European Union and the Common Economic Space in 2014. This new action plan incorporated provisions from the previous action plan aimed at harmonising Armenian legislation with EU standards, while at the same time incorporating recommendations and suggested changes related to Armenia’s entry into the Eurasian Economic Union.