YEREVAN -- Armenia's State Migration Agency says the Turkish government has been grossly inflating the number of Armenian nationals it reports to be working in Turkey, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.
Turkish leaders have for many years spoken of 50,000-70,000 Armenian migrants working illegally in Turkey. They have used the figures to attack Yerevan internationally and to emphasize Turkey's importance for Armenia's economic development.
But Gagik Yeganian, head of the State Migration Agency, said the real figure is no more than one-tenth of what Turkey reports.
"If there were that many [Armenian] workers then there would have been a corresponding negative [migration] balance,” Yeganian said. “We can speak about roughly 5,200 migrants that are citizens of Armenia and work in Turkey."
To substantiate his claim, he cited government data on individual travel between the two countries, which have a closed border and no diplomatic relations. The statistics show that some 293,000 Armenians traveled to Turkey and that 288,000 of them have returned home in the past eight years, indicating a small outflow of migrants.
Yeganian said travel between the two countries has quadrupled since 2000 and does not seem to have been seriously affected by this year's economic crisis.
He was confident that economic conditions would not worsen dramatically if the Turkish-Armenian border is reopened, dismissing concerns about a possible influx of Turks into Armenia.