UNHCR and Migration Service Meet with Stakeholders to Initiate a Comprehensive Package of Law Amendments on International Protection

On 15 July 2022, a kick-off meeting with stakeholders to discuss the initiative of the comprehensive review of the legislation on international protection was held in Yerevan. The meeting was co-organised by the Migration Service of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure of the Republic of Armenia and the Representation of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Armenia, in the framework of the project “Strengthening Migration Management Capacities in Support of Government Reform Agenda in Line with CEPA”. The project is co-funded by the European Union (EU) and implemented jointly by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR.

The event was attended by the Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Vache Terteryan, the Head of the Migration Service Armen Ghazaryan, the Deputy Minister of Justice Arpine Sargsyan, the Human Rights Defender of the Republic of Armenia Kristinne Grigoryan, the Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Armenia Andrea Wiktorin, the IOM Head of Office Ilona Ter-Minasyan, and the UNHCR Officer-in-Charge and Protection Officer Andrei Arjupin, as well as other stakeholders representing the judiciary, state authorities, international organisations, academia and the civil society. During his opening remarks, the Deputy Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Vache Terteryan stressed the importance of the project, stating: “The strengthening of the migration management and asylum systems are high on the Government’s agenda. We currently focus on some vital institutional reforms such as digitalisation and simplification of the migration management and service provision systems, and enhancement of the mechanisms for the reception of asylum-seekers. The Government of Armenia has been benefiting from UNHCR’s long standing cooperation, their expert and technical support in that regard”.

Recognising the importance of transparent and consultative process of reviewing the legal framework on international protection, the EU Ambassador Andrea Wiktorin welcomed the establishment of the Inter-Agency Working Group and wished “Productive discussions to revise the relevant legal framework, helping to improve the asylum and migration management.”

The meeting allowed the participants to discuss the key directions of the comprehensive review of the national legislation on international protection. The parties talked about the establishment of an inter-agency working group of experts representing state agencies, NGOs and international stakeholders to ensure an inclusive and equitable consultative process in the development of a comprehensive package of legislative amendments to benefit the persons seeking international protection in Armenia.

Welcoming the initiative of developing a comprehensive package of law amendments, the Human Rights Defender Kristinne Grigoryan said that the issues related to the protection of asylum-seekers and refugees in Armenia have been included nearly in all annual reports published by the Human Rights Defender’s Office (HRDO). “HRDO has voiced about the legislative and implementation gaps hindering the protection of asylum-seekers and refugees. Hence, the envisaged legislative amendments should help address crucial issues such as non-refoulement, or provision of free-of-charge translation and interpretation services enabling smooth communication between asylum-seekers and all the stakeholders, including border-guards, the police, penitentiary institutions and other state bodies”, she said. Referring to the capacity of the system, she highlighted the importance of allocation of sufficient state funds enabling to meet the reception needs.

In his turn, the UNHCR Officer-in-Charge Andrei Arjupin underlined UNHCR’s commitment to support the Government’s efforts in the ongoing legislative reforms by applying a comprehensive and an integrated policymaking approach. “UNHCR is determined to provide expert support to our state counterparts in developing a comprehensive package of law amendments on international protection and bringing it further in line with international standards”, he stated.

Acknowledging the Government’s efforts toward delivery of inclusive, accountable, and effective services to asylum-seekers and other displaced populations, the parties emphasised the importance of strengthening the partnership among the stakeholders to further support the Government’s initiatives aimed at enhancing the fairness, efficiency, adaptability and integrity of the asylum system.