Artak Mardyan was born in Baku in 1987, just when the Soviet Union started to unravel.
The following year, his family was forced to flee to Armenia due to the “troubles” in Azerbaijan and received refugee status. In 2002, Artak’s parents received Armenian citizenship.
At the time, the only legislation that covered their situation was the “Law on Citizenship”. According to the law, any children up to the age of 14 of parents who have received RA citizenship will also such citizenship. Artak, however, was 15 and not covered by the law.
Thus, while Artak’s parents became Armenian citizens, he remained a refugee. With his refugee status, Artak studied at university and got a driver’s license. Later, he received a "refugee travel document" (also called a 1951 Convention travel document). A law passed in 20008 stipulated that this document would replace all prior refugee papers.
With this document Artak worked as a company manager. In 2011, he used the document to travel to Moscow where he got engaged.
However, since the document was soon to expire, he decided to return to Armenia for an extension. He applied to the RA Police Department of Passports and Visas and was told that he needed to get a notice from the State Migration Service (SMS) as to his refugee status.
He went to the SMS this past December 7 and received a denial of his application on January 24. The reason given was that Artak had forfeited his refugee status based on changes and amendments made to the “Law on Refugees” in 2004. According to the modified law, refugee children forfeit their refugee status if their parents receive RA citizenship according to legal procedure.
In the first place, we should point out that to deny a citizen’s application in 2012, based on changes made in 2004, is strange to say the least. In 2008, these changes and the original law were no longer in force because a new law had been approved, in which there is no mention of the above point on refugee children.
Secondly, Artak has received his refugee travel document on December 7, 2009, with two year validity. However, at the time, the SMS “didn’t remember the 2004 nullified changes as it did in January, 2012.
According to Article 64 of the new “Law on Refugees and Refuge”, it clearly states that people who fled Azerbaijan for Armenia during 1988-1992, as well as those who received temporary refuge in Armenia, are recognized as refugees and those who have received refuge in the Republic of Armenia if, up until this law goes into effect, they have legally received and possess a corresponding refugee and temporary refuge document, and if their recognition as a refugee and their right to temporary refuge, hasn’t expired prior to this law taking effect.”
As noted, at the end of 2009, Artak applied to the same SMS and received a refugee travel document, which would have been impossible had he stopped being recognized as a refugee up till then.
Most importantly, Artak’s parents became RA citizens two years before the 2004 changes, and the law wasn’t retroactive. So how could someone be deprived his/her refugee status based on these changes?
If we accept, for the moment, that the SMS is correct theoretically and that Artak was stripped of his refugee status , this decision cannot be viewed as final because Article 53 of the current law states that, “A refugee finding refuge in the RA, in whose case a procedure according to Point One of the same Article has begun, continues to possess a refugee travel document, according to Article 30 of the lawn and until a final negative decision is reached in his/her case, fully takes advantage of their right to refuge on the territory of the RA.”
The reality is that Artak now does not possess a refugee travel document which, as the law defines, “is a valid document for a refugee to legally take up residence in the RA and to travel outside the RA. It also serves as a basis for the refugee to benefit from the rights and freedoms as enshrined in the same law.”
Artak has applied to the SMS on several occasions but has received no reply.
Artak isn’t the only one in this quandary. There are more than 140 others like him and the case of each is unique. At least 23 have taken their cases to the courts.