Exported labor: New research focuses on situation of Armenian migrant workers in Turkey


By Gayane Mkrtchyan

ImageA majority of women in Armenia intent on doing migrant work abroad choose Turkey, but very few Armenian men accompany them “to save their wives’ honor” and never choose to work for a Turkish employer, according to a recently conducted research related to Armenian migrant workers in Turkey.

“A majority of women are critical of their husbands’ behavior and say: ‘Why, in that case, do they let us work with Turks?’” said coordinator of Armenian-Turkish projects at the Eurasia Partnership Foundation Artak Shakaryan, presenting the results of an analytical study “Ethnic Armenian Migrant Workers in Turkey”.

The study, for example, cites the data of the Statistical Agency of Turkey, according to which 17,549 citizens of Armenia received visas to enter Turkey in 2000, and 14,672 returned to Armenia that year. A total of 2,877 citizens of Armenia stayed in Turkey in 2000.

“In the period of 2000-2008, nearly 6,000 people left for Turkey and chose to stay there. To this we should add the potential outgoing migration in the 1990s and multiply it by two. It means that nearly 20,000 migrants from Armenia live in Turkey today,” says Shakaryan.

Ninety-four percent of Armenian migrant workers in Turkey are women and 150 in-depth interviews conducted among them show that women in the neighboring country work as cleaners, baby-sitters, housekeepers, sellers. Many also work at garment factories.

Women receive wages of up to $600 per month. They choose Turkey because it is easier to get there, unlike other countries. They pay only $15 to get a visa and $80 for a coach ticket.

Interviews conducted as part of the research are mainly anonymous. A number of Turkish employers and state officials were also interviewed.

“Both Turks and Armenians think that their moral values are very close to each other’s and the attitude of Turks towards Armenians is essentially different than towards Moldovan or Russian women,” says Shakaryan.

According to him, for migrants today the problem is their children, who do not attend school. Under Turkish legislation, only legally residing people and citizens of Turkey have the right to attend public schools in Turkey.

“Newborn children are also a problem. Such children usually have no legal birth certificates. In fact, if they are taking the child into Armenia they cannot cross the border. Armenian children born in Turkey remain hostages,” says Shakaryan.

The analytical study was commissioned by the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and conducted by Istanbul-based Armenian analyst Alin Ozinoglu, in the period from April to August 2009.

Shakaryan says that the issue of prostitution was also studied. It is mainly pointed out that Armenian women are not competitive with Slavonic-looking women. But there is also a psychological thing – an Armenian prostitute for a Turkish man is a different thing. Many Georgian prostitutes introduce themselves as Armenians in order to make more money.

“This research exposes a number of problems. Our goal is to show to the society the situation of Armenian migrants in Turkey. It is also a step towards a better understanding of Armenian-Turkish problems and presenting them to the Armenian-Turkish commission to be set up in the future,” Shakaryan told ArmeniaNow.

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