Police have reportedly evicted over 150 families from the former headquarters of Armenia’s Defence Ministry on the outskirts of Yerevan. Residents protested outside the building, which they are being evicted from ahead of its renovation for use by the State Revenue Committee.
The 13-storey building, located northwest of the city on the Yerevan-Ashtarak highway, was given to Armenia’s State Revenue Committee in April 2022.
On Thursday, Yerevan police evicted residents of the building who, according to the authorities, were living there illegally. Twenty-six residents were detained while resisting eviction.
At the end of the day, a few dozen residents gathered in front of the building to protest the evictions and remained there overnight.
According to residents, around 150 families lived in the building, some since 2019, although most had moved in in 2021.
One of the residents told Hetq that she and her family had previously rented a flat in Yerevan, but could no longer afford skyrocketing rents in the city. After being told by an acquaintance that they could live in the former Defence Ministry building for free, the family of eight had moved a few months ago.
Other residents told reporters that they had moved into the building because they were homeless, and had restored and renovated the rooms they chose to stay in.
Responding to accusations that the police had ‘invaded’ the homes of those living in the building and forcefully removed them, an official from the Interior Ministry stated that they had not invaded, but ‘eliminated the invasion’.
Speaking to journalists, Deputy Head of Public Order Protection Gevorg Azizyan claimed that residents had been warned of the eviction, and were given ‘reasonable deadlines’ in August 2021 which expired on 12 February.
‘They were warned many times that they were in the area illegally’, stated Azizyan.
Armenia’s Ministry of Social Affairs announced that they would take steps to provide evicted citizens with temporary housing, and were considering implementing a rent compensation programme for those eligible.
No officials have clarified how residents were able to occupy rooms in the building without permission until yesterday’s evictions, in some cases for over four years.
After initially refusing to allow them to reenter the building, residents said police eventually allowed them to enter for a few minutes to gather their belongings.
The building has been vacant since 2008, when the Defence Ministry moved to its current location in a northern suburb of Yerevan.
The government plans to renovate the site, and move all facilities of the State Revenue Committee currently operating across the city there by 2027.