The dire prospects for young Syrians in their war-wracked country and as refugees in neighboring countries explains why many risk everything to get to Europe.
— The Economist

The war in Syria, which has driven more than 3 million people into flight, has offered a new, lucrative opportunity for smugglers.  Many Syrians are willing to pay $4,000-$8,000 for a place on board a cargo ship to carry them to Europe.  A cargo ship which seemingly represents safety but in reality is fresh bait  for these smugglers or human trafficking gangs set to make millions of dollars.  Recent news reveal tragic reports of the exploitation of migrants attempting to reach Europe from North Africa on unsafe ships.

We most probably will be hearing more reports about unsafe ships and human trafficking.  Syrian refugees feel they have no future and often the only option they think they have is to flee to Europe. They seem ready to give everything that they have and risk their lives for the possibility of freedom and safety.

Syrian Armenian refugees are choosing to take similar risks as they depart on dangerous journeys within and outside Syria.  Our documentary compiled by photographers Ara Oshagan  and Eric Grigorian and edited by filmmaker Avo Kambourian showcases the dire plight of Syrian Armenian refugees here.

Last year, the Armenian Redwood Project (ARP) chose to sponsor the safe journey of a widow and her 3 children from Aleppo into safe harbor in Yerevan, Armenia.  The newly widowed mother had three children, the oldest 11 years old.  Her husband was kidnapped and later killed along with his father after a tragic kidnapping incident in Aleppo.

A Home to Safely Raise Children and Start Healing the War’s Trauma

Photo credit: Ghadah Alrawi

Photo credit: Ghadah Alrawi

Smuggling, human trafficking, displacement, death are all the by products of the Syrian War. Safety and rebuilding a home and community for these refugees is a global imperative. 

A newly established rent subsidy program will allow more vulnerable refugees and widows like the one mentioned above to have a safe sanctuary to raise children.  It also provides a safe place to start the long overdue healing from the traumas of war.

Oxfam in Armenia in line with its humanitarian mandate, and in partnership with an Armenian Diaspora coalition led by the Armenian Redwood Project (with a major contribution by the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund) has officially announced it commitment to augment UNHCR’s rent subsidy project in Armenia.  Based on a tripartite memorandum of understanding between UNHCR, Oxfam and the Armenian Redwood Project, the institutions agreed to coordinate efforts in order to optimize the interventions aimed at providing affordable housing to Syrian Refugees in Armenia. 

The project is a continuation of UNHCR’s rent subsidy program that started in 2014 in Armenia and benefited hundreds of families. The partnership program sponsored by Oxfam and the Armenian Redwood Project was unofficially launched in early February 2015 in Yerevan through same operating partner that UNHCR has utilized: Mission Armenia NGO.  Its aim is to augment the absorptive capacity in Armenia to benefit newly arriving refugees, and other vulnerable families who have taken refuge in Armenia.

Photo credit: Eric Grigorian on assignment for the Armenian Redwood Project

Photo credit: Eric Grigorian on assignment for the Armenian Redwood Project

The result of augmenting the rent subsidy efforts pioneered by UNHCR will result in a total joint capacity of over 800+ households receiving rent subsidy benefits in 2015.

“The sheer size of the tragedy in Syria, which many are now considering the worst refugee crisis since World War II required institutional coordination on behalf of the Diaspora,” said Raffy Ardhaldjian, chief action officer of ARP. "A crisis of this magnitude compelled us not only to act, but also to unify Diasporan organizations and partner with world class humanitarian organizations like Oxfam and UNHCR in order to assist our fellow community members turned refugees in an institutional fashion."

The tripartite partnership was officially announced on March 17th at a public event marking the 4th anniversary of the war in Syria at the Akian Art Gallery at the American University of Armenia.  The gathering was attended by international and local NGOs, government officials and members of the Syrian Armenian émigré community in Yerevan.

To all of our readers we inspire you to think of the following: 

You don’t have to fly oversees to make a difference in the face of indifference. You can be compassionate and spread awareness about the cause. A campaign offering conscious global citizens an opportunity to act on their values will be launching soon.  Stay tuned and help us change the world by acting on your values.