Abkhazia: Welcoming Refugees From Syria
Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Syria, Abkhazia has welcomed families of ethnic Abkhazians and mixed Abkhazian and Circassian families who expressed a desire to leave the troubled region and return to their historical homeland.
Below is an article published by The Voice of Russia:
One hundred forty-five immigrants from Syria have arrived by a charter flight to the Republic of Abkhazia, located on the Black Sea coast. Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Syria, Abkhazia welcomed about 400 refugees from this long-suffering country. These are families of ethnic Abkhazians and mixed Abkhazian and Circassian families who expressed a desire to leave the troubled region and return to their historical homeland.
According to the Abkhazian law on citizenship, persons belonging to the Abkhaz ethnic group are automatically recognized as citizens of this Republic.
As the fates decree, in the 19th century, a portion of the population living in the North Caucasus found themselves outside of their homeland and settled in the territories of modern Syria, Jordan and Turkey. About 1,000 ethnic Abkhazians settled in Syria, and the most numerous diaspora settled in Turkey. Most of them have never been to their historic homeland, but they keep in their hearts the memory of their ancestors. Residents of many Abkhaz villages even managed to preserve their native language. “This humanitarian action is unprecedented for Abkhazia,” Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic Irakli Khintba said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
“During the last year, more than 180 individuals returned to Abkhazia. And now, for the first time, we managed to carry out the repatriation of a large group of our compatriots. They are mainly inhabitants of Damascus and its suburbs. They are very educated and intelligent people. I am sure that they will make a major contribution to the development of the Abkhazian nation both as professionals and as patriots. They are ready to share the joys and hardships of life in the Republic along with the Abkhazian people. Today, people whose ancestors found themselves outside Abkhazia 150 years ago are returning to their homeland. It is a symbolic event for the Abkhazian people”.
Russia has provided a great deal of help in returning Abkhazians to their homeland. At first, the refugees moved to the capital of Lebanon, from where they flew to the Russian city of Sochi, and then they were transported to the Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi by buses. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Russia in Syria, as well as the Russian customs and border guard services provided everything necessary for the prompt drawing up of documents and transport of the repatriates.
“Travel expenses were fully assumed by the government of Abkhazia,” Irakli Khintba continues.
“We have a repatriation fund, where financial resources for the process of adaptation and integration of repatriates into Abkhaz society are accumulated. Currently, the newly arrived families are accommodated in the hotels of Sukhumi, every immigrant receives a cash benefit. In the near future, they will attend Russian and Abkhazian language courses, which are necessary for them to better adapt. With time, they will be provided with permanent housing and assisted in finding employment”.
The return of Circassians and other peoples of the Northern Caucasus to their historical homeland has been at issue for a long time now. Following Abkhazia, the Russian Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria is going to increase the quota for the resettlement of immigrants from Syria. Last year, the Circassians from Syria, Jordan and Turkey visited Russia in order to get acquainted with life in the country, and primarily, the republics of the Northern Caucasus.