Growing Immigration Tendencies

13 m.   |  2019-04-03

The Development of Migration Policy is on the Agenda

T here are about 260 million migrants all over the world. According to the International Migration Organization’s data, international migration has a tendency to grow: if in 1995 2.8% of the world’s total population was migrants, in 2017 this percentage was 3.4%. If until recently Armenia was a migrant “export” country, the opposite trend has been observed in recent years. The number of foreign emigrants moving to Armenia is continually growing.  

Large number of emigration and growing immigration

A ccording to the International Organization for Migration there are more than 190 thousand immigrants in Armenia, which means that 6.5% of the population are migrants. The population of Armenia dropped by 103.9 thousand or by 3.4% in 2017 compared with 2008, and the labor resources of Armenia dropped by 334.8 thousand or by 14% compared with 2008.

Having discussed the negative effects of immigration many times, and in the light of a new influx of emigration, our monitoring results show that there is still a call for a plan to increase tourists in Armenia while there are concerns and discussion on restraints on the overall immigration to Armenia. Is this trend worrisome for Armenia or is this tendency under control and promotes economic liveliness?

In Armenia the migration is controlled by the state funded migration strategy program, which is based on the international principles and standards of immigrants and refugees. The main goal of the RA migration policy is to improve the legal migration process, by simplifying the whole process of providing residence status, regulating working condition and by promoting international education.

Migration in Numbers

F rom January to December of 2018, a positive balance of border crossings (according to the border registrations) was recorded. The number of arrivals exceeded the outflows forming 15.3 thousand people in contrast to the last year’s negative balance of -29.6 thousand people. This can be viewed as an unprecedented phenomenon, as it is the 1st time within the last 12 years that the border crossings balance is positive.

The figures on persons entering Armenia and border registration numbers often do not match, and there is a possibility, that the same person has crossed the border several times and it will appear in the border registrations. Therefore, the number of identified border crossings truly reflects the statistics in a more objective way. According to the MFA data of 2018, about 1097 foreign citizens received an educational visa, 157,135 person received a tourist visa and about 59 foreigners received a transit visa license.

According to MFA data, about 36,847 residents of the Indian Republic received an entry visa in 2018, about 27,240 residents of which entered Armenia. As we see, the numbers of people who received an entry visa and the numbers of those who crossed the border do not match, so care must be given in analysing the statistics.

The residents of India received an entry visa of Armenia mostly for tourism purposes. When observing the main purposes for entry visa, which are the tourism and education, it will becomes obvious, that about 3.5 times the number of Indian residents getting an entry visa for tourism or education could not have an essential impact on the overall picture of the RA migration process. It is also important to record, that Indian residents didn’t receive transit visas last year. The resolution adopted in November 2017, according to which the visa regime has been facilitated  for the Indian residents, greatly contributed to the inflow of the Indians from the Republic of India to Armenia․

The greatest difference between the entries and exits of the RA border crossings is noticed in case of the residents of Russia and India, and this difference noticeably increases in recent years.

Particularly in 2017 the difference between entries and exits was 394 people, whereas in 2018 it was 2766. This shows that last year more than 2766 Indian residents entered Armenia, than left it. Both in 2017 and last year, a great number of exits and entries from no other country except Russia was recorded. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Indians flow of citizens became a subject of broad discussions.

The same picture is revealed with people receiving residency status: 7145 people were granted with a residence status in 2018, about 70% of which was temporary and the rest was permanent. It should be noted, that a temporary residence status is given for up to one year and a permanent residency status is given for a 5 years term with a possibility of extension with the same period of time. India is leading in a number of citizens granted with residency status: compared with 2017, the number of Indian residents granted with a residence status has grown twice, becoming 1907, 98% of which got a temporary residence permit. As a result, it can be noted, that there is an increasing migration flow from India to Armenia.

Since India has recorded a rapid growth both in border crossings and in the number of residency status figures monitoring and uncovering the preconditions of Indian immigration will be the next step.

Indian numbers increase in the public eye

R ecently a number of concerns about the rapid growth of the immigrants have been raised in the media: deep employment problems in Armenia, change in the demographic picture and outsourcing local labor force at the expense of cheap labor force.

To understand the positive and negative impacts the growth of immigrants have inside Armenia, the issue on Indian immigrants was analysed from the following viewpoints: migrants’ law and discipline, involvement in labor market and social-cultural integration.

According to the RA police data, just 14 criminal cases were registered from Indian citizens, 11 of which for beating, 1 for theft, 1 for false denunciation and 1 for the case provided by the criminal article. At the same time, in 2018, 1022 cases of administrative violations committed by citizens of India were registered in the territory of Armenia, 1017 of which removal of hazardous wastes and violation of order, 4 for entering and living in the border zone and 1 case for violation of silence.

We can conclude from the above mentioned information that the claims about the criminal behavior of Indian immigrants are exaggerated, and their violations of law comprise a very small segment of the overall crime and infringement picture. Consequently, the presence of Indian immigrants does not have a negative impact on public security at present.

What are the activities of Indian citizens in Armenia?

A s a result of a verbal survey based on the information given by the RA leading job providing companies, such as “Get Job”, “Persona”, “Job Market”, “Tanger” LLC, Indian citizens have been actively looking for jobs especially in the last 3 months. The representatives of the companies told us that it is a little bit difficult to create employee-employer relations in the case of Indian citizens: although Indians are willing to work with much lower salary than Armenians, however the issue of not knowing the Armenian language raises problems. The language problem does not necessarily prevent Indian citizens from finding a job in the case of low qualification jobs, such as trades, cleaning, car washing jobs, etc..

Since the beginning of 2018, 20-30 Indian citizens on average have been applying at the Employment Agency. With cases like this, employment agencies can only provide consulting. Indians are mostly searching for a job in construction, trade, public catering and hotel services.  According to the data provided by the construction companies, mainly Armenians work in local construction companies and there are no Indian citizens in these companies yet (“AAB Construction”, “SahakyanShin” LLC).

Interestingly, there are two Indian employees in the Italian “Renco” company, as a tiler and another as a team leader, who have been working there since 2009-2010. Taking into account that the company is Italian, there are also many Italian employees working in different departments within this company. Although our field studies show that there are Indian immigrants who actually work at some construction, cargo and other companies, these companies do not give out such information for us to confirm.  This proves the fact that immigrants work at some companies without being registered. Of course, the presence of unregistered employees is common in Armenia.

At the same time, some businessmen assure that cheap labor force is demanded especially in the field of agriculture. This can be supplemented by the migrants of active workability age. Although it should be noted, that such a tendency has not been noticed yet and foreigners who arrived Armenia try to settle in Yerevan.

It is noteworthy that Indian citizens, who have succeeded in Armenia express a favor towards the previous entry visa regime. We talked to the Indian businessman Danesh Narayanan about this and other topics.

Experience of a successful Indian businessman Danesh Narayanan

S ocial-cultural integration is also an important aspect for the integration of migrants. In this regard, we should notice that social-cultural environment of Armenia is not devoid of the factors related to Indians.

Danesh Narayanan is the first Indian investor in Armenia, who has lived in Armenia since 1994 and succeeded in the textile and commercial industry as well as in the restaurant business. Pointing out the positive expectations from the new government, the businessman speaks with a great enthusiasm about new opportunities and is planning to make new investments in Armenia. Soon his second restaurant will be opened, the main purpose of which, according to him, is not just for profit, but the presentation of Indian culture in Armenia, which is well accepted. The entrepreneur also conducts business activity in Georgia and India, as well as in Dubai, where his main commercial office is situated.

The first business venture of Danesh Narayanan when he came to Armenia from Kerala State, South India, was a textile business, founded in 1996 and worked up until 2001. Cheap raw material was brought from India, orders were made by the local textile factories and then the product was exported to other countries. The main customer was USA. Within the specially designed program, the textile factory was moved to Africa. He cooperated with local sewing factories such as “Garun” in Masis, “Gloria” and “Bazum” in Vanadzor. According to Danesh Narayanan there are ripe conditions for establishing factories in Armenia, with a favorable network been formed in the textile industry.

Danush established the first Indian restaurant in Armenia, the “Karma” 15 years ago. The businessman tells us, that at the time there were few Indians living in Armenia in those years. He notes there were only about 40 students studying at Yerevan State Medical University then. In the beginning, the launch of the restaurant led to a number of problems: at first, the Indian dishes were odd for the locals and because off the lack of Indians in the country it lead to a limited number of customers.

The businessman says that he didn’t make any profit for the first 10 years. More recently, it has become a favorite for both Armenians, local Indians and tourists. We asked if only Indians work at his restaurant and his reply was that both Armenians and Indians have been working there for many years. Indians work mainly as cooks, taking into account the peculiarities of the cuisine and regarding to other jobs at his restaurant he does not discriminate among nationalities. The businessman says that he hires Indian managers in general, as they are more prepared and familiar with the environment and they have more experience. While Armenian managers, are not as experienced with the good specialists working abroad, particularly in Russia.  

Talking about the mass immigration of Indians D. Narayanan emphasized that he is for the previous entry visa regime from India to Armenia: it should be necessary to apply to the embassy, restoring the system of sending a working invitation which will regulate Indian immigration to Armenia.

According to the businessman, people mainly immigrate from India to Armenia from the states of Punjab and Gujarat. Agents in India often take advantage of the naivety of Indian citizens and extort money from their compatriots by promising to take them to Europe but bring them to Armenia. An example of a case happened recently, when the resident of the Punjab state ended up in Armenia because of travel agency deceit.

For such a small country as Armenia, the businessman doesn’t think that the attraction of cheap labor force from the other countries is realistic, especially from the states of Punjab and Gujarat, because of the low quality workers. Georgia has closed the whole visa-free regime from India to Georgia because of this reason.

The businessman highlights the entries of more “qualified” Indians to Armenia, as the quality of migrants directly impacts on other Indians, who are already respected and honored among Armenians. The legal and transparent activity in Armenia is a priority for him. Talking about the changes made in the Tax Code, the businessman mentioned that they will no way affect the way of activity he adopted.

The businessman also states, that after the revolution Armenia has become a more favorable country for everyone, as the atmosphere of fear has disappeared and people are more free in their actions.

It can be concluded, that it is impossible to avoid migration flows, and changes should be made in the RA migration policy which will not only lead to legal migration and to the facilitation of a visa regime with other countries but will clearly state the provisions insuring the uncontrolled flow of the immigrants. We should also develop such a social-economic program along with a migration policy, which will not raise problems for migrants legally moving to Armenia. The immigration of Indian citizens is a good opportunity for reconsidering and reforming the migration policy of Armenia.