YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — The government of Kuwait on Thursday reportedly expressed readiness to finance the construction of a special residential district for ethnic Armenians from Syria who have taken refuge in Armenia.
The Armenian government’s press office quoted Faysal Fahd al-Shayi, the head of a Kuwaiti parliamentary delegation visiting Yerevan, as telling Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian that “Kuwait is ready to provide assistance to work on the New Aleppo neighborhood.” A statement released by the office said nothing about the possible scale of that assistance and gave no other details.
In late 2012, the Kuwaiti government allocated $100,000 worth of humanitarian aid to Syrian Armenian refugees. It took the form of grocery coupons distributed to some 1,000 such families.
Responding to a petition signed by some 600 Syrian Armenian refugees, the Armenian government pledged last year to help build the New Aleppo district in Ashtarak, a town 20 kilometers west of Yerevan. The Ashtarak municipality was quick to set aside 5 hectares of land for the future neighborhood that would consist of a dozen apartment blocks and around 100 houses.
Officials from the Diaspora Ministry in Yerevan dealing with the project said at the time that roughly 500 Syrian Armenians will be able to buy those homes at below-market prices covering half of the total construction costs estimated at $35 million. The ministry hoped to raise the rest of the funding from private donors in Armenia and especially its worldwide Diaspora.
Only about $200,000 has been raised to date, the reason why the project has yet to get off the drawing board. Diaspora charities based in Europe and the United States have made no contributions so far. Speaking to RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) in July, Diaspora Minister Hranush Hakobian insisted that the housing project has not been cancelled despite the lack of funding.
According to government estimates, some 11,000 Syrian Armenians currently reside in their ancestral homeland. Most of them rent apartments in Yerevan. Many struggle to survive in a country that has long suffered from high unemployment and other economic problems.