Success Stories in Armenia: Avo from Syria, Arsineh from Lebanon
This is the story of two Armenians, one from Syria, the other from Lebanon, who moved to Armenia and, despite the challenges, have launched successful businesses.
Over the past seven years, 9,682 Syrian citizens of Armenian heritage and 15,234 from Lebanon have received Armenian citizenship. Many moved to Armenia because of the civil war in Syria and the growing political/economic crisis in Lebanon.
“Green Food” line of Middle Eastern fare
Avo Lakhoyan moved from Syria to Armenia in 2017 and decided to establish a family business despite limited finances. The goal was to create a unique product not widely distributed in Armenia. The result was Green Food, a line of Middle Eastern fare hereto off the radar of most Yerevan residents.
Lakhoyan began production one moth after arriving in Yerevan. The family followed soon after.
He says that while there were many Middle Eastern eateries in Yerevan, there were just a handful of shops where you could go and buy hummus, za'atar and other dishes.
Lakhoyan also wanted to get his products, which he says are chemical-free, on the shelves of Yerevan stores.
Today, Green Food products can be found in most Yerevan supermarkets. The company also supplies local cafes and restaurants. The company plans to export its food products.
Lakhoyan says the family came to Armenia to stay, not as a transit stop to somewhere else. This, he says, is one of the secrets of the family’s success.
Rental apartment to foreign language learning center
Armineh Panosyan, a teacher by profession, moved from Lebanon to Armenia in 2015.
After teaching English for a year, she decided to establish her own language teaching center. Panosyan ignored the advice of friends that the business wouldn’t succeed.
Panosyan realized that to make a go of it she would have to come up with a new teaching method and that her fees would be different compared to others.
The A+ Skills language training center faced serious financial problems its first year. The Covid-19 epidemic and the 2020 war in Artsakh didn’t help business either.
The language center has grown, teaching English to children and adults.
“To succeed, you need to work and love your work. I attribute my success to my character and temperament, not being Lebanese or diaspora Armenian,” she tells Hetq.
Integration into Armenian society
When large numbers of Armenians from Syria and Lebanon moved to Armenia in 2012-2014, the Armenian government launched several programs designed to facilitate their integration into the local society.
At the time, Armenia had a ministry of the diaspora to support newcomers to Armenia. The ministry has since been disbanded.
Today, those support programs don’t exist. The government argues newcomers receiving citizenship such be informed of their rights and responsibilities as citizens.
The Armenian government has also drafted a ten-year integration and reintegration strategy for migrants that combines various programs into one document.
Recently, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) proposed that all persons of “Armenian heritage” applying for Republic of Armenia citizenship must legally reside/stay in the country for a minimum of sixty days during two years prior to their application.
According to Article 47, Part 3 of Armenians Constitution, those of Armenian extraction have the right to acquire Republic of Armenia citizenship from the moment they settle in Armenia. The NSS says the Law on Citizenship does not define when a person is considered to have settled in Armenia.
The NSS claims to have conducted studies showing that large numbers of people claiming Armenian extraction, especially from the Middle East, apply for RoA citizenship but have never been to Armenia, or visit for short periods, and in some cases merely visit to apply for citizenship.
The NSS also cites “security concerns” as one of the reasons for its proposal.
The measure has received push-back from many in the diaspora.