Vahagn Vermishyan, Chairman of the Urban Development Committee, told at a press conference on July 1 that the government will allocate 3 billion AMD in 2020 to cover the housing needs of 453 families considered to be “beneficiaries of the disaster area “in order to “end the issue once and for all”.
In response to journalists’ questions, Vermishyan said that he doesn’t refer to the temporary houses, but the families affected by the earthquake, those who have such status. However, media and social networks did not publish Vermishyan’s complete statement, causing manipulations.
A number of media outlets presented an incomplete account of Vermishyan’s words.
For instance, the “Azatutyun” website says “The number of beneficiary families residing in the temporary houses as a result of the earthquake is 453.”
The Shant TV website says “The issue will end once and for all. The concept “beneficiary of the disaster area” shall be eliminated in 2021. The temporary houses shall be destroyed and turned into construction material. As a rule, the temporary houses are located in the city area.”
The quote makes an impression that Vermishyan’s words refer to the temporary houses in Gyumri, which, however, does not correspond to the reality.
The July 1 news issue on Public TV had the following headline on the topic “The problem of homeless people in the disaster area will be finally solved”.
However, Vermishyan has referred to 453 families with a special status rather than all the homeless.
Manipulations by members of Civil Contract Party
On July 1, the Gyumri office of the ruling Civil Contract Party published a photo on Facebook, which immediately spread to social networks.
The caption to the photo said “Upon the RA Prime Minister’s order, 3 billion AMD will be allocated to provide apartments to 457 families affected by the earthquake in 2020, and this issue will be solved once and for all.”
This publication largely exaggerates the situation and distorts Vermishyan’s words. Public Relations Coordinator of the party Vahagn Alexanyan posted a picture on his page, saying “The problem of Gyumri temporary houses will be solved in a year. In a year, my friends, in a year!”
Marz governor’s clarification
Shirak governor Tigran Petrosyan made an explanatory statement on his Facebook page after Vermishyan’s announcement and clarified that the chairman of the Urban Development Committee referred “only to 450 families belonging to a group that has been recognized by the state as a beneficiary in rural communities”.
Petrosyan also added that a working group established by the instruction of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has mapped about 2450 temporary shelters in Gyumri only, “to which Vermishyan’s statement does not refer but has been misinterpreted by some media as a complete solution of the issue of homelessness.”
It should be noted that in December 2018, Tanya Arzumanyan, Head of the Housing Fund Management and Utilities Infrastructure Department of the Urban Development Committee, stated that the problem of homeless families in the disaster area would be finally solved in 2020, and added: “542 families (mainly in rural settlements of the disaster area) are still waiting for the resolution of their issues. Most of them are in Lori (345), followed by Shirak (167) and Aragatsotn (30).”
That is, not all the disaster area groups will see the problem of homelessness solved with 3 billion AMD. As noted by Shirak governor, only in Gyumri there are so far about 2,450 temporary houses. As mentioned above, this amount was allocated by the Government to Lori, Shirak and Aragatsotn marzes mainly to overcome the problem of homeless families registered in rural communities.