Ethiopia’s tradition of hosting refugees and asylum seekers dates back to many, many centuries. Most recently, Ethiopia has strengthened its overall refugee response mechanisms with a view to maximize the benefits of refugees and communities hosting them. The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) maintains an open-door asylum policy albeit it has very limited resources to support the people who have been uprooted by a range of man-made calamities.
The country is currently home to more than 1,000,000 refugees and asylum seekers from some 26 countries making it the second largest refugee hosting nation in Africa. The majority of these refugees originate from neighboring South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea and are sheltered in 24 camps and sites while some others are allowed to live outside camps, including the capital Addis Ababa with due recognition of the urban refugee status to eligible persons. Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) is now collaboratively working with various partners to comprehensively support refugees, returnees and host communities.
We believe that the refugee response management in Ethiopia is a demonstration of how a country with limited resources and socio-economic challenges of its own keeps its door open for those who are in need of protection and assistance and maintains its longstanding commitment to improve the lives of refugees and host communities irrespective of any political, ideological and/or situational changes.
On top of its firm commitment to maintaining the asylum space in the country, the GoE is already taking groundbreaking measures to create conducive legal and policy environments and effective institutional arrangements with a view to improve the lives of refugees, returnees and host communities.
Among other things, Ethiopia’s progressive refugee proclamation is believed to serve as a model for other refugee hosting nations given that it creates conducive legal environment for Comprehensive Refugee Responses. The ongoing legal and policy reforms are also expected to accelerate the implementation of the nine pledges the Government made during the Leaders’ Summit in New York in 2016 in line with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in the country.
We are also finalizing the drafting of a long-term National Comprehensive Refugee Response Strategy that considers contextual diversities and ultimately aims at creating self-reliant and resilient refugees and host communities through meaningful consultation, coordination and cooperation at all levels, particularly with UNHCR, UN Agencies and donors.
RRS is committed to expanding its partnership to ensure comprehensive and holistic reintegration support; improve national reintegration frameworks and mobilize much resources. To this effect, we are closely working with the European Union (EU) and other humanitarian and development partners to provide sustainable reintegration support to Ethiopian returnees from the European Union Member States (EUMS) plus Norway and Switzerland and other parts of the globe.
The protracted and complex refugee operation in Ethiopia is creating immense socio-economic and environmental impacts, including significant strain on natural resources. Therefore, it is important to note that such protracted refugee situations coupled with tens of thousands of new arrivals to the country critically entail the need to expand development approaches linked with humanitarian assistance and peace-building initiatives so that the goal of ensuring long-term resilience both for refugees and host communities can be attained.
At this juncture, I want to reflect with deep concern the huge shortage of both humanitarian and development funding, which is the key challenge for the Government in its continued efforts to improve the lives of refugees, returnees and host communities.
Therefore, I would like to urge all stakeholders to renew their commitment based on the principle of burden and responsibility sharing and maximize their support for the successful realization of the Government’s multifaceted commitments.
In a nutshell, I would like to reaffirm the determination of my Office to strengthen ongoing efforts towards expanding engagements by bringing onboard wide-ranging stakeholders and partners covering many aspects of refugees, returnees and host communities in Ethiopia.
I Thank You!
Mrs. Teyiba Hassen
Director General, RRS
Director General, RRS