Chapter 2. Armenia’s migration landscape

Armenia has one of the highest emigration rates in the world, with about 30% of the population living outside the country. As well as witnessing a marked increase in the number of emigrants, Armenia benefits from significant and increasing remittances. This chapter describes the migration landscape in Armenia, highlights the current trends, key issues and major knowledge gaps linked to migration, drawing on existing research. The chapter also reviews the role of migration in national development strategies, the status of migration-related policies and the institutional framework for managing migration.


Since gaining independence in 1991, Armenia has undergone a profound transformation – from centrally planned to market-oriented economy. However, this period has not been easy: the devastating earthquake in December 1988, the collapse of the common market of the former USSR, and the political and military instability in the region have all seriously affected the country’s economy. Between 1989 and 1993 gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 60%, and in 1993 alone consumer prices increased by 110 times (Manasyan and Jrbashyan, 2004). In addition, Armenia adopted a “shock therapy” strategy in 1992 aimed at sustained growth and introducing ambitious first generation transition reforms, including comprehensive price liberalisation; transfer to the private sector of state-owned land, housing and productive enterprises; introduction of some tax reforms; and the introduction of tight monetary policies to control inflation, currency convertibility, and a floating exchange rate.

However, the Nagorno-Karabakh armed conflict in 1992-94 meant that the effective implementation of macroeconomic adjustment programmes only became possible in the mid-1990s. The steady pursuit of the first generation transition reforms, as well as inflows of capital and remittances, have created a market-oriented environment and assured recovery and steady growth. Economic growth in the initial years of the recovery was vigorous, averaging 5% over 1994-2000 and reaching double digits (12%) annually on average in 2003-08. However, the economy was characterised as narrowly based, with a low level of sectoral and regional diversification. This is still considered to be one of the most serious obstacles to the country’s social and economic development, and a source of economic vulnerability during shocks. The double-digit growth rates of the pre-crisis period were replaced by a 14% decline in 2009, before re-establishing a moderate annual growth rate of around 3% over 2013-15 (ArmStat, 2016).

Due to these economic changes and accompanying transformations in social welfare, Armenia has a long history of migration. The motives for migration have varied over time. Currently, unemployment is the dominant push factor for emigration, but other reasons such as geopolitical threats, social injustice, negative perceptions of economic governance and development uncertainty also play a significant role (ILO, 2008).

Remittances from abroad – a direct consequence of labour migration – play an important social and economic role in Armenia, particularly in combating poverty. The country is considered to be among the 15 largest remittances recipients in the world.

This chapter describes the migration landscape in Armenia, highlights the current trends in migration and key issues linked to migration, drawing on existing research. The chapter also reviews the role of migration on national development strategies, the status of migration-related policies and the institutional framework for managing migration.

A brief overview of migration and remittance trends in Armenia

Both regular and irregular emigration have been and continue to be important phenomena for Armenia. The phenomenon of seasonal labour migration began to emerge in the 1960s, driven by differences in socio-economic development among administrative-territorial units. Since the late 1980s, the country has seen several waves of migration, driven by persistent unemployment, the large informal sector, under-employment and subsistence employment, the destructive Spitak earthquake in 1988, the armed conflict over Nagorno Karabakh, and harsh socio-economic conditions (due to the general economic crisis and the economic blockade imposed on Armenia):

  • 1989-1990: Evacuation and re-evacuation of population in the earthquake zone: this was a direct consequence of the disastrous earthquake and led to a decline in the population. Armenia irreversibly lost to emigration about 50 000 citizens (1.5% of the total population) (UNDP, 2009).

  • Early 1988-late 1991: arrival of approximately 420 000 refugees and displaced persons, mainly from Azerbaijan, but also from other regions of the former Soviet Union, such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Abkhazia (IOM, 2006). However, due to the socio-economic hardships of the 1990s, a large number of these refugees (the estimates suggest between one-quarter to about one-third) left the country. Because the process started in the early 1990s and formed the part of the overall emigration process of those years, this outflow was contested within the general flows of migration. During the same period approximately 160 000 ethnic Azeris left Armenia (IOM, 2006).

  • 1992-1994: Armenia’s biggest exodus – a consequence of the sudden paralysis of the national economy and the emergence of explicit and disguised unemployment and the ensuing mass impoverishment of the population. This was caused partly by the infamous “shock therapy”, which contributed to an abrupt deterioration in living standards and quality of life, and considerable worsening of housing and utility conditions, primarily due to the energy blockade. Although this lasted only three years, the period was marked by huge volumes of external migration. The estimates of the real size of migration vary between 800 000 and 1 million people.1 A demographic study of Central Asian and Caucasus countries indicated that Armenia had one of the highest differences between de facto and de jure population (ArmStat and UNFPA, 2008). Official projections suggested a population of 3.8 million during the 1990s, though the census results indicated a population of 3 million (ArmStat, 2001).

  • 1995-2001: a phase of migration decline as the socio-economic situation in Armenia stabilised, and housing and utility conditions improved, partly helped by remittances of those who had left previously. In addition, the very high emigration of the previous periods had significantly reduced the emigration potential of the population and relieved tension in the domestic labour market. The key feature of this phase was that the shares of long-term labour migrants in the number of departing migrants and returnees grew further.

Emigration remains high

Although emigration trends began to stabilise in the early 2000s, Armenia is still one of the world’s top economies for emigration rates. In 2015, there were an estimated 937 000 Armenian emigrants, around 31% of Armenia’s total population (Table 2.1). Russia remains the most common destination country, receiving 56% of Armenia’s emigrants. The second most common destination country is Azerbaijan, despite a decrease in its share over the last 15 years.

Table 2.1. Migration remains high in Armenia



Total population (in thousands)

3 076

3 018

Stock of emigrants

865 553

937 299

% of emigrants to total population



Destination countries (%)







United States of America















Source: UN DESA (2015), Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 Revision, database,

The current emigration patterns are characterised by two key features: i) a relatively stable group of temporary labour migrants; and ii) smaller-scale permanent emigration flows (on average 10 000 people annually according to the NSS; although another estimate puts the number at least 33% higher [UNDP, 2009]).

Data acquired through a survey commissioned by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Office in Yerevan (Minansyan et al., 2007), confirmed that between 2002 and 2007, temporary labour migrants dominated the external migration flows from Armenia (94% of all migrants), while only 3% left Armenia with the intention of permanently residing abroad and 2% left to study abroad. Another study suggests that every year about 60 000 labour migrants leave for jobs in Russia, mainly in the construction industry (ILO, 2009a).

Although slowing, the trends in 2014 were quite similar: the Integrated Living Conditions Survey (ILCS) suggests that nearly 65% of household members (aged 15 and above) involved in migration processes over 2011-14 had not returned home by 2014; their main reason to emigrate was either to take up or search for a job. The same survey findings suggest that 90% of those migrating for employment opportunities headed to the Russian Federation in 2011-14. Thus, the Russian Federation was and still is the most popular destination for all migrants.

Other surveys suggest that the intention to migrate remains very strong among Armenians. According to findings of a joint 2013 survey by the European Training Foundation (ETF) and the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC)-Armenia, one-third of respondents intended to move abroad to live or work (ETF, 2015). Moreover, the results of the annual Caucasus Barometer Survey found that the share of respondents willing to leave Armenia for good grew from 21% in 2008 to 31% in 2013 (CRRC, 2008 and 2013).

The overwhelming majority of Armenian labour migrants are married men aged 21-50 (ILO, 2009a). The share of women migrants dropped from 14.1% in 2002-04 to 6.5% in 2005-06. Another survey in 2013 found that 82% of emigrants were male and 18% female (IOM and NSS, 2014). Although different surveys and studies provide quite different statistics on the gender composition of migrants, the male dominance of Armenia’s emigration is evident, and needs to be further addressed by migration research and migration policies of the Republic of Armenia.

Remittances are high but fluctuating

Historically, migration (especially labour migration) and migrants’ remittances to their families have had a positive influence on human development in the recipient countries. Taking into consideration the fact that the inflow of migrant remittances to Armenia is rather large (15% of GDP in 2015), it is likely that remittances play a key role in Armenia (Figure 2.1). More than half of households with migrant members abroad reported receiving remittances. Unsurprisingly, most of the remittances (about 70%) sent to Armenia come from the Russian Federation. Remittances from the diaspora keep many families above the poverty line, according to the Armenian Economist (2006). They increase consumption and short-term investment, and greatly contribute to Armenia’s current GDP (ILO, 2009b). Remittances not only influence the economy in general, but also greatly affect human development, driving up education and healthcare spending, as well as aiding with the expense of purchasing land and other real estate. According to the Central Bank of Armenia, remittances sent to Armenia are mostly in US dollars and are sent mostly through the banking system.

Figure 2.1. Remittances to Armenia tend to fluctuate
Remittances in volume and as a share of GDP (%), 1995-2015

Source: World Bank Annual Remittances Data (October 2016 update).

However, research has also identified some potential negative effects of remittances on development in Armenia. These include an adverse impact on GDP in the long run; reduced competitiveness within the Armenian economy; depression of the labour market; inflation; and discouragement of government’s social expenditures and implementation of macro-economic policies (Karapetyan and Harutyunyan, 2013).

The use of remittances on investment is rarely addressed, although some studies have looked at the use of remittances in housing, business activity (machinery and shops) and education (Karapetyan and Harutyunyan, 2013). It has been argued that remittances contribute to the involvement of remittance-receiving households in trade because these households both tend to consume more and tend to get involved in trade business in Armenia.

The literature has examined the link between remittances and the financial sector. However, while it is often mentioned that the growth in remittances contributes to the availability of loans and expands the use of different financial instruments, the financial opportunities that are created by the remittance inflow are typically underutilised in Armenia. Reasons for such underutilisation include the mistrust of banks and the corresponding tendency for not keeping savings in banks, financial illiteracy, and low levels of income (Makaryan and Galstyan, 2013). The influence of remittances on the labour market is also contradictory: on the one hand, there is a positive effect on employment through investment. On the other hand, the income from remittances may encourage migrants’ families to reduce their work efforts (Grigorian and Melkonyan, 2011). With respect to education, some studies indicate that there is a negative influence of remittances on education in Armenia: households that depend on remittances tend to invest less in the education of their children in comparison to the households that do not receive money from abroad (Grigorian and Melkonyan, 2011). However, other researchers have come to the opposite conclusion, noting that remittance money plays a central role in satisfying the educational needs of the Armenian population (Yeganyan and Davtyan, 2001). In all, while the literature addresses several aspects and consequences of migration remittances, the effect of remittances on development policies is almost never directly explored (Grigorian and Melkonyan, 2011). It should be noted, however, that remittances, in general, may have a negative effect on governance in Armenia as they may reduce the political will to enact policy reforms (Karapetyan and Harutyunyan, 2013).

What are the key issues and knowledge gaps?

It has been acknowledged that Armenia’s past and present external migration processes have not only supported stabilisation, but also acted as an important driving force for development, especially human development. Yet, active intervention is needed in order to avoid the imminent threat of further escalation of the migration situation in the country, as emigration along with unemployment and poverty are the most critical social challenges for Armenia today.

According to ArmStat and United Nations Population Fund assessments, Armenia is an ageing nation. Migration, along with a decreasing net birth rate and increasing life expectancy, is considered one of the key contributing factors to this ageing (ArmStat and UNFPA, 2008). Indeed, the rapid ageing of Armenia’s population is mainly driven by the migration of its middle-aged representatives (EV Consulting, 2014). This means that the labour market will be affected by an ageing population even if the labour force participation remains steady.

This section provides a brief overview of some key studies, focusing particularly on the interconnections between migration and labour market, agricultural development, health, education, social protection, and gender relations. In addition, this section reviews the research evidence regarding the impact of migration and remittances on various facets of the Armenian society.

The impact of migration on the local labour market is not clear

The literature on the connections between emigration and the labour market in Armenia tends to focus on the country’s limited employment opportunities and the lower wages in Armenia compared to the main destination countries for Armenian migrants (Injeyan, 2012). While admitting that a lack of employment opportunities is a major driver of migration and skills losses, some studies argue that unemployment-driven labour migration is beneficial because it reduces the pressure on the local labour market (Makaryan and Galstyan, 2013; Yeganyan, 2006). In addition, given the gendered nature of Armenia’s migration, the literature has examined the impact of male labour migration on the employment of women left behind. One study found a negative relationship between male migration from rural areas and engagement in paid employment by their wives who remained at home (Agadjanian and Sevoyan, 2014a). However, the cross-sectional nature of their data prevented them from drawing any causal inferences. Researchers have also looked at the labour market reintegration of return migrants, finding that returnees tend to seek employment more actively and engage in entrepreneurial activities more than individuals who had never migrated (ETF, 2013a).

The impact of migration on agriculture needs further research

The relationship between migration and agricultural development in Armenia has not been the topic of any specialised study; the literature has addressed only some aspects of this relationship. For example, one study found a negative association between male migration and the size of a household’s agricultural land holdings, although the direction of causality in this association is difficult to establish (Agadjanian and Sevoyan, 2014a). It has also been argued that the more a person is involved in agricultural activity in terms of the amount of land and livestock, the less he or she intends to emigrate (Davis, Bezemer and Wandschneider, 2003). With respect to agricultural production, it has been argued that labour migration is one of the reasons why livestock productivity has considerably declined in Armenia (FAO and UNESCO, 2003). The literature has called for investment in the agricultural sector in order to discourage emigration and mitigate the negative economic effects of migration in rural areas (Haykazyan and Pretty, 2006).

The links between migration and education are inconclusive

Whether education is associated with the decision to emigrate is the subject of some debate. Some studies have argued that there is a positive link: individuals with tertiary education are more likely to emigrate (ETF, 2013a; Dermendzhieva, 2011). In fact, the proclivity to emigrate seems to be higher among individuals who received higher education abroad; these emigrants are also less likely to return than other emigrants (Makaryan and Galstyan, 2013). Conversely, other researchers have not found a significant impact of educational levels on intentions to emigrate from Armenia (Grigoryan, 2013). With respect to return migrants, it has been noted that although emigrants who return to Armenia bring with them valuable knowledge and new skills, these new skills are rarely certified or otherwise documented, thus hindering their value for obtaining better-paid work back home (ETF, 2013a).

Emigrants lack social protection

Researchers point to the lack of necessary social protection of persons emigrating from Armenia in order to engage in work abroad and call for the urgent adoption of legislative measures (Aghababyan, 2012; Kabeleova, Mazmanyan and Yeremyan, 2007). Research examining the impact of emigration on social protection within Armenia finds that because emigrants to do not pay taxes in Armenia, the fiscal burden on the Armenia’s pension system is increased (Asatryan, 2014). Such fiscal problems may be one of the reasons why the government recently raised the personal income tax rate from 10% to 24% (Republic of Armenia, 1997).

Migration may strengthen gender inequality

Some research looked at the influence of migration on gender relations in Armenia (Shahnazarian, 2013). It has been argued that even though migrants’ wives tend to take on more responsibilities and social roles due to their spouses’ absence, these additional responsibilities and roles do not necessarily improve their status within the family and community. In fact, gender inequality may worsen still further for a number of migration-related factors, including financial dependence on migrant husbands’ income and social pressures from family members to abide by traditional gender norms in their husbands’ absence (Menjıvar and Agadjianyan, 2007).

This review of literature on migration in Armenia suggests that most research has focused on the causes, issues and impacts of migration. A number of surveys and studies have been conducted on the size, socio-demographic profile of migration, and migration consequences, but very little research has been done into the effectiveness of the governance of migration in general and labour migration in particular. Along with this, it has not yet been revealed what measures are needed to make migration “work” better for development, including enhancing benefits such as financial flows, technology transfers and entrepreneurship, and mitigating the negative consequences such as the loss of skilled human resources. Similarly, while considerable research effort has gone into the impact of large-scale international migration on Armenia, hardly any research has reflected the relationship between migration and the policies or mechanisms created in Armenia across various sectors including the labour market, agriculture, education and investment. These are key research gaps which this report aims to fill.

What role does migration play in national development strategies?

The attitude of the Armenian Government towards regulating migration processes, and addressing their causes and consequences, has become more proactive under the 2008-12 Programme. To date, the government has produced a number of strategic documents which refer to the area of migration regulation, including the Strategy of National Security, the Sustainable Development Programme, the 2014-2025 Strategic Program of Prospective Development, the Concept for the Development of Co-operation between Armenia and the Diaspora, and the Strategy on Demographic Policy of Armenia.

Migration is integrated into national development strategies

As emigration, along with unemployment and poverty, are acknowledged to be social challenges for Armenia, the country’s development strategies highlight the importance of proportional territorial development and an active demographic policy. They aim to direct all public policy instruments towards preventing out-migration from mountainous and border regions, suspending emigration from the country, and encouraging immigration into Armenia. The development strategies also envisage specific steps for civilised integration into the international labour market, improving the international protection of persons on humanitarian grounds, etc.

Ensuring sustainable and perspective growth through national security and an active economic policy is a key priority for the government. The achievement and maintenance of macroeconomic stability and high rates of economic growth, combined with continuous improvement in the economy to enable job creation and adequate pay, and a reduction in income differentials between the population of Armenia and more developed countries, will all largely contribute to preventing any further increase in emigration.

The strategic development programmes also highlight the importance of direct social policy measures coupled with economic policy tools and levers such as direct support for the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as the promotion of employment in industries with relatively higher wage levels. The creation of decent and productive employment opportunities, enhancing skills and human resources, and strengthening labour market governance are also key policy priorities for Armenia and are expected to help to overcome migration-related challenges.

Although all the key challenges and measures required are reflected in the country’s strategic documents, the targets are not necessarily being met, which suggests that policies governing migration and public administration should be essentially improved.

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.

What is the institutional framework governing migration?

The current migration management model in Armenia is decentralised, in the sense that various functions and operations – such as control over entry, stay, residence and exit of foreigners, emigration of nationals, labour migration, asylum, etc. – are performed by different governmental entities. The 2012-2016 Action Plan for Implementation of the Concept for the Policy of State Regulation of Migration in the Republic of Armenia identified the following agencies as primarily responsible for implementation:

  • The State Migration Service (SMS) created in 2010 within the Ministry of Territorial Administration is the central authority responsible for developing and implementing the state policy on managing migration processes, as well as for co-ordinating activities of the governmental institutions dealing with migration issues in the area of policy development and drafting legal acts.

  • The Ministry of Diaspora, established in 2008, is responsible for the development, implementation and continuous improvement of the state policy on developing the Armenia-diaspora partnership and co-ordinating the activities of the state bodies in this field. The ministry has developed and is carrying out potential pan-Armenian projects aimed at developing the Armenia-diaspora partnership.

  • The National Security Service (NSS) also has competence in the sphere of migration and border management and control. In particular, the NSS provides its opinion to the SMS and to the Passport and Visas Department of the Police on individual cases on request.

  • The Border Guards Troops, which come under the NSS, are in charge of border management and control. They work with the Border Management Information System (BMIS) database.

  • The Passport and Visas Department of the RA Police (OVIR) is in charge of issuing visas at borders, visa extensions, granting residence status/residence permits, registering citizens, issuing travel documents for stateless persons and operating the Passport and Residence database of the citizens of the Republic of Armenia (RA).

  • The Division of Combating Illegal Migration and for International Collaboration of the RA Police was established in 2003 and is responsible for investigating cases of irregular state border crossing, swindling, and forgery, sale or use of forged documents, stamps, seals, letterheads, and vehicle license plates.

  • The National Statistical Service of the Republic of Armenia (ArmStat) collects, processes, summarises, analyses and publishes statistical data (including migration related data), co-ordinates the information and data collection according to a unified classification and coding system based on international standards, organises statistical surveys, and carries out population censuses. ArmStat also collects data on immigrants, emigrants and remittances received by households in Armenia.

  • The Office of the President of the RA is responsible for granting Armenian citizenship.

  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is responsible for issuing passports and return certificates, for issuing special residency status, and the communication with Armenians abroad, and for issuing visas.

  • The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MLSA) is responsible for implementing labour migration policy and other labour migration-related issues.

Moreover, according to the Code of the State Employment Service Agency, the agency can also make contracts with other countries and organisations in order to regulate the supply of migrant workers. However, there is no implementation mechanism for this sphere and this provision has not yet been used. Three Migration Resource Centres were established within the State Employment Service Agency in 2010, providing reintegration services to potential and returning migrants, and individual advice concerning job placements and involvement in state employment programmes. They also provide expert support to relevant government and non-governmental organisations.

Finally, as far as the anti-discrimination regulations are concerned, the Constitution of Armenia contains an anti-discrimination clause, but there are no specific sub-laws or regulations to protect a person against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, language, religion, or other circumstances of a personal or social nature. This absence implies that a person is not guaranteed adequate protection against discrimination within the national legislative framework of Armenia.

Despite the variety of activities directed to migration, migration policy in Armenia is characterised by a lack of coherence. Although emigration is a widely discussed phenomenon and its potential negative consequences for Armenian society are acknowledged, no effective measures have been taken by the government to minimise it. There is neither the political will nor the policy mechanisms to effectively regulate labour outmigration. At the same time, no effective steps are being taken to facilitate immigration and resettlement of refugees from the Middle East. Yet, the need for effective interventions in the area of migration regulation is constantly stressed, with the arguments ranging from demography, to economics, to national security.

Specific inconsistencies in the implementation of various aspects of migration policy include lack of concrete legislative mechanisms to regulate labour migration from Armenia to the EU, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) or other countries; improper implementation of readmission agreements with foreign countries; lack of an integrated and complete database on citizenship or residence status; lack of co-ordination among different government agencies; and lack of effective mechanisms for the sustainable reintegration of migrants returning to Armenia.


Armenia is a country with a long history of migration; today the intention to migrate remains very strong among Armenians. Both regular and irregular emigration continue to be important phenomena affecting the country, even if the motives for migration have changed over time. Unemployment is currently the dominant push factor for emigration, with other factors such as geopolitical threats, social injustice, negative perceptions of economic governance and development uncertainty also playing a significant role. Armenia has experienced substantial changes in its migration dynamics, the groups directly or indirectly involved, as well as perceptions on how to solve these issues through state regulation. These changes have affected the system of public administration and migration policies, with policies governing migration substantially improving over the last two decades.

Emigration, along with unemployment and poverty, are acknowledged to be basic social challenges for Armenia. All the recent strategic documents adopted by the Government of Armenia refer to migration regulation either directly or indirectly, including preventing emigration from mountainous and border regions. The country’s development strategies highlight the importance of even territorial development and active demographic policy, as well as specific steps for integration into the international labour market, and improving international protection for migrants on humanitarian grounds. The creation of decent and productive employment opportunities, enhancing skills and human resources development, and strengthening labour market governance are also key policy priorities to help Armenia overcome its migration-related challenges. Despite the recent progress in mainstreaming migration within certain policy areas, bringing migration into national and sectoral development plans and setting up a more integrated mechanism to systematically deal with the issue remain real challenges for the country.


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← 1. The magnitude of this migration has been difficult to assess due to a lack of reliable statistics. The issue has been a subject of in-depth discussion because the procedures for administrative registration of migration do not allow for assessing the real size of emigration (ArmStat, 2008).

← 2. Unlike the 1990s, when some 360 000 ethnic Armenian refugees arrived from Azerbaijan after the outbreak of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

← 3. One of the main objectives of the 2010 concept paper and the national action plan was to expand co-operation with the European Union in relation to migration and, particularly in joining the Mobility Partnership, establishing co-operation with FRONTEX and other institutions, and benefiting from the Armenia-EU Justice, Liberty and Security subcommittee.