The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration. IOM has 156 Member States and 10 Observer States. IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, including refugees and internally displaced people. The IOM Constitution recognizes the link between migration and economic, social and cultural development, as well as to the right of freedom of movement. IOM works in the four broad areas of migration management: (i) Migration and development; (ii) Facilitating migration; (iii) Regulating migration; and (iv) Addressing Forced migration. IOM activities that cut across these areas include the promotion of international migration law, policy debate and guidance, protection of migrants’ rights, migration health and the gender dimension of migration.
As the leading international organization for migration, IOM acts with its partners in the international community to: assist in meeting the growing operational challenges of migration management; advance understanding of migration issues; encourage social and economic development through migration; and uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants.
IOM in Armenia
The Republic of Armenia became an IOM Member State in 1993. IOM activities in the country are grounded on a number of official documents signed with the Armenian Government, including “Cooperation Agreement on Privileges and Immunities” (1994) and “Memorandum of Understanding” (2001). As an intergovernmental organization, the IOM in Armenia works closely with the Armenian Government and implements projects prioritised by the latter. The IOM Mission was opened in Yerevan in 1993.
IOM has operated in Armenia for the last twenty years and has played an important part in reforms of migration management in Armenia through extensive capacity building, advising and shaping policy, research, technical assistance, public awareness as well as direct assistance to various categories of migrants.
All of IOM’s activities promote the concept of safe migration through information campaigns, vocational training for students at boarding schools, and capacity building of border guards and raised awareness of the mobile populations that are vulnerable to health issues.
With IOM’s active involvement, bases are been provided for bilateral labour agreements between Armenia and destination countries (including in Europe) with the aim of enabling an environment for circular migration of Armenian workers. This is done in parallel with facilitating policy dialogue on aligning national legislation with EU acquis on migration and strengthening capacities of Armenian institutions responsible for readmission of returning Armenian nationals. At the same time national capacities in migration data collection, analysis and policy are being strengthened to enhance effectiveness of the migration management and promoting standards of personal data protection.
Migration Policy and Research
One of IOM’s strategic priorities in the area of migration policy is to contribute to increased dialogue between migration stakeholders at bilateral, regional and global levels. At the global level, IOM organizes the International Dialogue on Migration and actively supports and participates in Regional Consultative Processes on Migration. IOM took an active role in the organization of the 2013 UN High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development (HLD). IOM continues to assist the Armenian Government in mainstreaming migration into the Post-2015 Agenda and in HLD follow-up on the national level.
On the policy level, from 2001 – 2008 the IOM assisted and involved Armenia in the interregional migration management dialogue (the “Cluster Process”) between the sending and transitional countries of the South Caucasus, and the receiving EU Member States. A focus on the promotion of legal migration and the importance of bilateral readmission agreements was introduced into discussions. In 2011-2013 the IOM facilitated policy seminars on migration between Armenia and the EU, furthering dialogue between Armenia and the EU in the context of the EU-Armenia Mobility Partnership, Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements.
Upon request, IOM provides ad hoc policy advice to migration practitioners and policy makers from the Armenian Government, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations, private experts and the media on diverse migration management issues. IOM also assists partner institutions and organizations in their efforts to further develop their approaches to migration issues.
The IOM assists the reforms of migration management, including introduction of the system of electronic passports and identification cards with biometric parameters. IOM has provided comments to various policy documents and draft laws (e.g. the legislation related to introduction of identity and travel documents with biometric parameters, the employment strategy and law, etc). IOM has also conducted thematic needs assessments in different areas of migration, such as labour migration, border management, biometrics, airport security, migration data, and migrants’ rights. The 2008 “Review of Migration Management” set a basis for the new wave of migration reforms in Armenia, and the interagency working group established by the Decision of the Prime Minister of Armenia to discussing its comments and suggestions suggested elevating the status of the Migration Agency to a State Migration Service with a function of developing migration policies. The 2011 “Progress Review of Migration Management in Armenia” focuses on coordination of activities of bodies with mandates in migration management.
The 2010 “Migration Data Needs Assessment Report” recommends a coordinated way of collecting, exchanging and analyzing migration statistics as required by international and regional standards. As a follow up the IOM has supported the development of methodology to collect, exchange and analyse migration data, which was discussed with a wide range of stakeholders in Armenia. The IOM sponsored a comprehensive nationwide household survey on migration. Conducted among 7,890 households, the survey was the first large-scale and representative survey in the country. It addressed not only on internal and external movements, scopes of immigration and emigration, return, but also the migrants’ savings and remittances and migration’s development effect on population and households.
International Migration Law and Migrants’ Rights
The IOM is dedicated to promoting awareness and understanding of International Migration Law (IML), the international legal framework governing migration, which covers a variety of principles and rules that together regulate the international obligations of States with regard to migrants. In 2009 IOM Armenia contributed to the “Armenia National Human Development Report on Migration and Development”. In 2010 IOM published a study on “Migration Management and Human Rights.”
IOM did a lot of advocacy for Armenia’s accession to the “International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families”, which was signed by Armenia on September 26, 2013.
IOM also arranged the Armenian edition of the "Migration Law Terms Glossary", thus contributing to a common approach to migration management through commonly accepted terms and definitions.
The Armenian version of the “IOM Data Protection Manual” was produced, which outlines the IOM data protection principles as informed by relevant international standards.
In 2013 IOM conducted an “Analysis of Armenian Migration Legislation and Practice as Compared to EU Standards”. The latter was used to draft the National Plan of Action Towards Harmonization of the Armenian Legislation on Migration with international standards, including the approaches and principles adopted by the EU, the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space.
With regards to EU-Armenia cooperation on migration, the comparative study “Laws for Legal Immigration in the 27 EU Member States” has been produced in the Armenian Language. IOM also provided training on EU Aquis on migration and arranged the Armenian version of the Guide to Selected EU Legal and Policy Instruments on Migration.
A brief Comparative study on migrants’ access to employment, health care and social services within the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space was also prepared for by IOM and shared with the Armenian Government.
Training programmes with components in IML have been offered to various state institutions as well as the Armenian universities (Yerevan State University and Russian – Armenian Slavonic University) introducing Master Program in Migration Studies in line with the Bologna requirements. A Migration Competence Center was established at Yerevan State University.
Border Management and Identity Management
The IOM has supported the Government's border management reform. Thus, the IOM has assisted the expansion of the Border Management Information System to all border crossing points.
IOM has also facilitated the connection of some central units at Police Headquarters and Yerevan Zvartnots Airport to the Interpol I-24/7 telecommunication database system.
The IOM has provided technical assistance to the introduction of biometric e-passports in Armenia. The “Biometrics Needs Assessment Report” prepared by OSCE and IOM provided technical guidance for the introduction of electronic Machine Readable Passports and an electronically enabled identity card. IOM has also arranged quality assurance of the new biometric documents. With IOM’s technical advice the Police prepared a number of draft laws related to introduction of biometrics. IOM also provided “Comments on the RA Draft Law on “Protection of Personal Data.”
On the policy level, IOM conducted several important assessments, such as the Yerevan Zvartnots International Airport Aviation Security Report and the "Border Management Needs Assessment Report”. The latter addressed the shortcomings identified at the currently available border infrastructure, in order to foster and enhance effectiveness and efficiency of border controls at some Border Crossing Points in Armenia, taking into account previous and ongoing actions and support by international donors and national investments.
The “Review and Needs assessment of Readmission Management in Armenia” examines the capacities for practice of implementation of readmission agreements, and served as a basis for the development of the “READMIT Manual” as a toolkit for practitioners who face the challenge of improving the capacity of their country to manage migration. It explores theoretical issues of readmission with the focus on its implementation in the Republic of Armenia; examines related migration management framework where the readmission process functions, and has a digital module. In parallel, together with the State Migration Service a “Guide on Processing Readmission Cases in Armenia” was developed to lead them through the processing of readmission cases.
The “Needs Assessment of Special Accommodation Centres for Foreigners in the Republic of Armenia” reviewed the existing procedures for the accommodation and detention of irregular migrants in Armenia, identified the gaps in capability and provided recommendations for the improvement and provision of facilities, as well as provided guidelines for the development of comprehensive standard operating procedures for special accommodation centres in accordance with the international legal and human rights standards. In 2012 IOM provided technical advice to the establishment of the institute of border plenipotentiaries in Armenia, including their standard operating procedures and a curriculum for training.
IOM has been continuously providing training to border guards, police, Interpol, consular officers and others in IBM. In 2010 IOM prepared a “Training Curriculum for the Training Center of the Border Control Detachment of Border Guards Troops” (under National Security Service). The curriculum is used to conduct regular and continuous training courses to train the border guards and teach the new inductees. The IOM Passport Examination Procedure Manual, one of the world’s leading reference tools of its kind, which addresses the methodology of travel document/passport examination in a logical order, providing practical information on every step of the examination process, has been translated into Russian and distributed among the relevant state bodies in Armenia. IOM also built the capacities of the Police’s Division of Combating Irregular Migration, which operates under the General Department for Combating Organized Crime, and is charged with the factions of preventing, combating and detecting irregular migration from and through Armenia.
IOM is providing technical advice on the facilitation of foreign recruitment and circular migration as well as capacity building on labour migration. IOM's labour migration activities focus on the regulation of labour movements and programmes to assist Government and migrants in the selection, recruitment, cultural orientation, training, travel, reception, integration and return of labour migrants.
It is thanks to IOM’s work that the Government started paying attention to regulation of labour migration. IOM facilitated negotiations of bilateral labour agreements with Qatar, consideration of such cooperation with Kazakhstan, Italy and other countries. For expanding inter-state cooperation of labour migration and promoting possibilities of circular labour migration, an Assessment of Labour Market Potential in Armenia delineated the picture of the country’s labour force potential.
The “Labour Migration Management Needs Assessment Report” has identified the main gaps in policy, legislation and administrative structures for both labour emigration and immigration, and resulted in policy options to regulate labour migration. As a follow up IOM has provided technical assistance to the Armenian Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in elaboration of policy and legislation to regulate the field of labour migration (important policy documents, legislation, including the “RA Law on Employment”, “2013-2018 Employment Strategy of the Republic of Armenia”, and reports were prepared as a result of IOM’s technical assistance in support of the Implementation of Actions Envisaged under 2012-2016 Action Plan for Implementation of the Concept for the Policy of State Regulation of Migration in the Republic of Armenia and Concept on Studying and Preventing Irregular Migration Originating from the Republic of Armenia). To fortify the technical assistance, a solid capacity-building component has also been fulfilled to expand the knowledge of numerous government officials involved in managing labour migration. The IOM/ILO/OSCE Handbook Establishing Effective Labour Migration Policies in Countries of Origin and of Destination was translated into Armenian and used in Training of trainers in labour migration.
Currently the IOM works towards fostering economic development through migration (remittances, skills transfers, prevention of irregular migration through economic development in the regions of Armenia).
To raise the public's awareness on threats of irregular migration, as well as the benefits of legal labour migration, the IOM Mission in Armenia, together with the State Employment Agency of Armenia, established a Migration Resource Centre which provides free consultations to potential migrants. The MRCs provide potential labour migrants with information on visa procedures, legislation and employment opportunities in host countries. They also inform returnees about existing reintegration programmes, refer to state employment programmes, undertake skill assessments for returnees and invite employers and potential job candidates to job-clubs. Later the IOM MRC model was replicated in more locations with support from the ILO and People in Need. A hotline for migrants has been operational in Armenia (with the State Employment Agency).
IOM produced 23 country guides with information relevant for migrant workers on the following countries of destination: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Georgia, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
IOM initiated a dialogue between the Armenian government and Armenian diaspora organizations on the diaspora’s role in labour migration management. Currently Armenia is part of a regional project facilitating temporary assignments in Armenia by qualified nationals residing in Europe.
Combating Trafficking in Human Beings
The IOM has been active in counter-trafficking activities in Armenia and has lobbied for the inclusion of an article criminalizing human trafficking into the Criminal Code, for ratification of the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols, and has contributed to the development of the National Plans of Action to Combat Human Trafficking.
The IOM has implemented twelve counter-trafficking projects in Armenia ranging from research and capacity building to victim assistance and public awareness. Working with its partners, the IOM offers direct assistance to victims of trafficking. Further assistance includes specialized expertise and practical skills for law enforcement agencies and Border Guard troops to help them more effectively detect, investigate and prosecute traffickers, which are in line with other efforts to combat trafficking in persons.
Through IOM's support, a trafficking course has been included into high and middle school curricula. Teachers from all schools country-wide were trained to teach counter-trafficking and all schools received books and educational materials prepared for the course. A Manual for university student has also been developed.
To ensure community support, Armenian NGOs regularly organize information dissemination campaigns which promote Counter-Trafficking education in Armenia, also by means of peer-to-peer education and extra-curricular activities.
Thanks to the Armenian version of the IOM Handbook on Direct Assistance to the Victims of Trafficking, various organizations involved in counter-trafficking programmes got guidance and advice necessary to effectively deliver a full range of assistance to victims of trafficking from the point of initial contact and screening up to the effective social reintegration of the individuals concerned.
Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration
The provision of reintegration assistance to migrants in their countries of origin is an essential element to ensure sustainability of returns. The sustainability of returns may, however, ultimately only be ensured in tandem with socio-economic development. IOM and partners in countries of origin provide migrants with socio-economic support to promote their self-sufficiency and contributions to their local communities.
IOM Armenia is involved in various AVRR regional projects organizing return of Armenian citizens from Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Norway, Finland, etc. The assistance provided to returnees varies broadly and ranges from return assistance, which includes pre-departure information and counselling and the organization of voluntary return, to schemes that include help with long-term reintegration and economic viability of the migrants once they are back in Armenia. In 2000 – 2012 IOM has assisted 6,179 migrants, who returned to Armenia from mostly from European states. In January 2011 – July 2014 IOM has supported 581 returnees in 371 cases (families). IOM developed a “Referral Guide for Reintegration of Returnees in Armenia” with the aim of steering and improving the assistance to the returnees toward the sustainability of return in Armenia. The Guide serves as a referral mechanism for all the bodies involved in reintegration of returnees in the country.
Facilitated Movements and Resettlement
IOM’s work in improving migration management includes developing immigration and visa support solutions for governments and migrants worldwide. Within this scope of work, since 2013 the IOM has operated in Yerevan a Visa Application Centre on behalf of the Canadian diplomatic mission. The Canada Visa Application Center is the exclusive service provider for the Government of Canada, authorized to accept applications in all temporary resident categories (visitor visas, study and work permits) and travel document applications from Canada’s permanent residents in Armenia: it handles all of the administrative tasks of the visa. The CVAC Armenia has equipment for biometric tests, therefore, it handles biometric tests submissions for citizens of 30 countries (Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, Yemen). In the first semester of 2014 CVAC has accepted more than 40 biometric tests.
In 2004-2013 based on Agreement with the Canadian Government, the IOM provided pre-consular Services to the residents of Armenia applying for non-immigrant visas, Canadian temporary resident visas, immigration to Canada under “Skilled Worker Category,” as well as visas for work permit.
In 2008-2014 more than 3,300 applicants were assisted by IOM, including applications for Temporary visitor visas, Study/Work Permits, Travel document applications and Passport transmissions.
The objective of this programme is to process individuals who apply for permission to resettle in the US as refugees. IOM receives and processes initial applications, and later assists with the pre-interview registration and case processing. IOM is the on-the-ground representative for ensuring the logistical and operational success of visits from US immigration officers and a local point of contact for the local US Embassy and UNHCR offices.
Migration and Health
IOM’s strategic objectives on migration health include (i) Monitoring migrant health; (ii) Enabling conducive policy and legal frameworks on migrant health; (iii) Strengthening migrant friendly health systems; and (v) Facilitation of partnerships, networks and multi-country frameworks on migrant health.
The Armenian versions of the “Caring for Trafficked Persons: Guidance for Health Providers” and its Facilitator’s Guide were distributed among the personnel of the Armenian Ministry of Health, hospitals, medical universities and social workers of child care institutions and respective trainings were organized for them. The “Assessment of health related factors affecting reintegration of migrants in Armenia” assesses Armenia’s legislation and policies related to health care for migrants and returnees as well as the infrastructures and services available in Armenia for returning migrants with acute health problems and their degree of implementation, including health insurance system. It identifies the gaps in health care system for migrants and returnees with medical problems and suggests specific recommendations to this end.
The Study “Employment of People with disabilities in Armenia” assesses the needs of disabled people realted to employment and the barriers for them in the labour market.
Emergency and Post-Emergency Operations
IOM provides emergency relief, return, reintegration, capacity-building and protection of the rights of affected populations. IOM is active in initiatives towards disaster risk reduction, disaster risk management and climate change adaptation. In Armenia IOM is part of the UN Disaster Management Team.
IOM programmes in the post-emergency phase bridge the gap between relief and development by empowering communities to assist in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of affected areas as one of the ways to prevent forced migration.
To address increasing massive migration pressure in the Southern Armenian settlements, which occurred due to the lack of potable and irrigation water in Siunik region and weakened agriculture, IOM mobilised the local community of Shvanidzor to rehabilitate and reutilise traditional underground water systems, which are called Chaheriz and have been built in Armenia since 720 BC. The water system became fully functional, making potable and irrigation water available to villagers.
IOM has also been providing socio-economic reintegration and empowerment of mine victims, persons with disabilities and members of their families in Armenia.
Migrant Integration and Migrant Training
The IOM facilitates successful integration of migrants and refugees in host societies. Migrant Integration focuses on: i) the dissemination of information on rights and obligations of migrants and refugees in home and host countries, ii) the provision of advisory services and information on services available to them, and ii) the reinforcement of their skills which enhance their prospects for quick and successful integration.
Within the framework of the “Self-reliance and Integration through Micro-enterprise Development” programme (MEDP) implemented in Armenia since 1997, the IOM helps individuals (including returnees, refugees and displaced persons) to become self-sufficient through micro-credit schemes, including micro-enterprise training as well as credit and employment opportunities. The aim is to reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid and the levels of poverty as well as to achieve effective reintegration in society. As of June 30, 2014, more than 2,750 persons have already completed training in micro-business management and business planning. So far, over 9,650 loans, amounting to more than USD 8.8 million have been extended, impacting the lives of over 4,800 direct beneficiaries, including loan recipients as well as persons employed. Over 3,400 businesses were supported, with some 25 per cent of the loans used to create production and service businesses and the balance for trade. 42 Iraqi refugees and 43 mine victims benefited from the training and MEDP services.
In 2013 IOM also conducted a “Baseline Research on Irregular Migration in the Republic of Armenia” to study and assess irregular migration in Armenia with a focus in immigration, which was the first such study ever conducted in Armenia. While the scope of immigration is much smaller as compared to emigration, the immigration and migrant integration issues still need to be addressed, and IOM is continuing to work towards helping the migrants to be integrated and protected.
Capacity Building in Migration Management
In order to respond to the country's needs to develop coherent responses to migration challenges in a changing international environment, IOM's technical co-operation also focuses on capacity building for officials dealing with migration management and working towards solutions for emerging migration issues. Since 1993 IOM is involved in capacity building for the State Migration Service, National Security Service and its Border Guards Troops, Police (Interpol Armenia National Central Bureau, Directorate for Passports and Visas, Division of Combating Irregular Migration), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Consular Services and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, National Statistics Service, Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Diaspora, among others. In particular, extensive training programmes have been organized for border guards and police on issues such as legislation, human rights, the examination of identity and travel documents and fraud detection, counter-smuggling and counter-trafficking, as well as the use of border control and management technologies. Extensive trainings on essentials of migration management, international migration law, labour migration, migration data, readmission, etc. were organized for the representatives of the respective bodies. Experience exchange programmes on various topics have also been offered to the government officials.
The IOM has provided capacity building to more than 10,000 people (including government officials, police officers, border guards, teachers, students, pupils, journalists, doctors, migrants, refugees, victims of trafficking, etc.).