On 15 July, the GDP received a response to our Covid-19 survey concerning Armenia from a representative of an international organisation who wished to remain anonymous. The official reported that the Armenian government had not established a moratorium on new immigration detention orders and was not considering one. The official indicated that Armenia does not operate an established immigration detention centre. The source explained that detainees in prisons are tested if it is suspected that they may have contracted Covid-19. Nonetheless, detainees are not routinely tested.
In a separate communication with the GDP, Mission Armenia, a local NGO, reported that people who enter the country in violation of border regulations “are transferred to common places of detention functioning within the country.” The country’s criminal code provides that individuals found crossing the state’s border without relevant documents or permits can be punished with imprisonment. However, this does not apply to people who enter the country seeking asylum. Asylum seekers are supposed to be accommodated in reception centres while they undergo refugee status determination procedures, where they receive food, hygiene items, and are not subjected to movement restrictions.
The anonymous source confirmed these details and added that many asylum seekers also apply for support with accommodation to the Migration Service or UNHCR partner NGO’s engaged in the provision of social assistance, or take care of accommodation by themselves. Mission Armenia nonetheless points out that as there sometimes are insufficient places available in reception centres, the NGO accommodates asylum seekers as well as non-nationals in deportation procedures.
The anonymous official said that currently, the Armenian government is developing a State Migration Management Strategy to regulate issues related to immigration detention, including building a dedicated immigration detention centre. The Armenian Ombudsman, however, has called on authorities to use “alternatives to detention,” echoing calls made by the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 20 March.
As regards deportations, the source reported that they were not aware of any deportation cases among persons of concern since the declaration of the state of emergency by the Armenian government on 16 March 2020. On that date, the government declared a 30-day nationwide state of emergency. This was then prolonged four times and is now declared to be in place until 13 August. The state of emergency imposed movement restrictions, including travel to and from Armenia, particularly for non-citizens. At the same time, a non-citizen or stateless person can apply for asylum in Armenia during this period. However, upon entering the country s/he may undergo certain medical examinations and/or be placed in quarantine for 14 days. The Armenian Migration Service has created an online platform to submit asylum applications.
- Mission Armenia, Email exchange with the Global Detention Project, May 2020.
- Anonymous International Organisation official, Global Detention Project’s Covid-19 survey, July 2020.
- Panorama, “Armenian Ombudsman: Authorities Should Resort More to Alternatives to Deprivation of Liberty,” 3 April 2020, https://www.panorama.am/en/news/2020/04/03/Armenian- ombudsman/2268074
- Police Officer Standing Next to a Health Worker Taking a Person’s Temperature, (Bloomberg, “Armenian Government Stabilizes COVID-19 Cases, but Structural Risk Factors Remain,” The JamesTown Foundation, 30 March 2020, https://jamestown.org/program/armenian-government-stabilizes-covid-19-cases-but-structural-risk-factors-remain/)