UNHCR recognises the excellent work of Migration Service in Armenia in adjusting the asylum procedures to COVID-19 situation on the Portal of the Asylum Capacity Support Group, an initiative of Global Compact on Refugees.
The Migration Service of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure (hereafter the ‘Migration Service’) is the mandated body responsible for carrying out refugee status determination (RSD) in Armenia in accordance with the Law on Refugees and Asylum.
In March 2020, the Government of Armenia announced a State of Emergency to curb the spread of COVID-19. Due to the precautionary measures, the staff of the Migration Service had to shift to full and partial teleworking for several months. This disrupted the regular mode of access to the asylum procedures, processing of asylum claims and delivery of services to asylum-seekers and refugees.
Acknowledging the importance of ensuring the continuity of asylum procedures during the pandemic, the Migration Service implemented new procedures clustered into two main principles: securing a continuous proper access to individuals seeking international protection in Armenia while ensuring the enforcement of specific measures aiming at containing the spread of the virus. In this regard, the Migration Service has conducted internal consultations and consultations with UNHCR while, as a result, securing the following impact of the measures introduced in the following directions: a) Access to asylum procedures, b) Access to information, c) Access to documentation and basic rights and services, d) Addressing RSD backlog.
During first half of 2020, the Migration Service registered more asylum applications (increase of around 30%) than during the same period of 2019. In 2020, the total number of asylum-seekers whose cases were decided on merit was almost the same (even slightly higher) as in 2019. The number of pending asylum applications at the end of 2020 was only slightly higher than that at the end of 2019.