Obtaining a residence certificate from the municipal office should be a simple task, but it was quite the opposite for Karen,* a resident of a village near Kapan in eastern Armenia. Residence certificates are legal documents needed for many key transactions in Armenia, such as obtaining a passport or applying for a job. Certificates should be issued free of charge and without conditions. However, when Karen applied for this document, local officials allegedly presented him with a series of additional requests in exchange for their services. This led Karen to believe that they expected a bribe. When local government officials ultimately refused to issue his certificate, Karen called the toll-free hotline of the new Advocacy and Assistance Center (AAC) in Kapan.
The Kapan AAC is one of eleven centers located throughout the country, operated by local NGOs, where victims of corruption receive free legal assistance on a walk-in or call-in basis. Over the phone, Karen told AAC staff that government officials were inventing requirements that prevented him from obtaining a residence certificate. The center’s legal staff immediately contacted local government authorities. AAC legal experts reminded the officials that Armenian law requires local governments to provide residence certificates to citizens free of charge and without conditions. This single phone call was all it took for Karen’s residence certificate to be granted immediately.
“The AAC was of great help,” said Karen. “It saved me a lot of trouble caused by red tape, which I know other citizens also experience.” Helping Armenians overcome corruption is precisely what AACs and their toll-free hotlines were created to do. Karen’s success illustrates how AACs are empowering citizens throughout Armenia to fight alleged corruption.
*The name of the citizen in this article has been changed for confidentiality purposes.