There are between 12,000 and 13,000 Armenian citizens working illegally in Turkey, the results of a study by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation have revealed.
According to the study, 94 percent of the Armenians working in Turkey are women, with very few Armenian men accompanying their spouses to Turkey or working here. Armenian women tend to work as childcare providers, servants, janitors and saleswomen. Most of the Armenian men who accompany their wives here choose not to work at all, while those who do tend to work in the jewelry business.
The foundation -- based in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia -- recently sponsored a detailed study on the work patterns of Armenians in Turkey. Head researcher Alin Ozinian, an İstanbul native of Armenian descent, worked for two years on the project, which culminated in a 150-page report to be released to the public next month in İstanbul. The report makes important claims as to the number of Armenians living in Turkey. According to official numbers, 6,000 Armenians did not return home after traveling to Turkey between 2000 and 2008. Ozinian adds figures from the 1990s to this number and says the number of Armenians illegally living in Turkey is not 70,000 to 100,000 as has previously been asserted, but is actually 12,000 to 13,000.
In November, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during the course of a speech in Malatya that there were nearly 100,000 Armenians living illegally in Turkey and that the government overlooked this. In the past, Turkish foreign ministers and diplomats have also spoken of Armenians living in Turkey numbering around 70,000. Turkey has deported very few Armenians working illegally here in recent years, the report says, asserting that Armenians are only deported if they have committed a crime outside of working illegally; the crime rate amongst immigrant Armenians is very low. Ozinian believes that the Turkish authorities knowingly ignore illegal Armenian workers in Turkey.
For those Armenians with the will, it is a simple matter to immigrate to Turkey. An $80 bus ticket secures travel through Georgia to the Turkish border, where another $15 buys an entry visa. Ninety-five percent of Armenian immigrants choose to live in İstanbul.
An interesting finding of the study is that those migrating from Armenia prefer to work and live with Turks in İstanbul, as opposed to Armenians who are natives of the city. Immigrant Armenians say the “moral values” of Turks and Armenians are very close. Amongst the survey questions asked as part of the study was, “Is there a difference between the idea of a Turk you had in your head before coming here and the ideas you have now?” Most of the answers expressed a fear of Turks before coming and a love of them after living and working with them.
Armenian immigrant children often do not continue their education after coming to Turkey, and infants born here have no official birth certificates. As there is no Armenian consulate or embassy in Turkey, they are children without identities or nationality.