With a mandate to receive and assist refugees, the Administration for Refugee & Returnee Affairs (ARRA) assumes higher responsibilities in managing and coordinating the refugee program in Ethiopia as enshrined in the refugee proclamation which Ethiopia has enacted in 2004.
As a government counterpart of UNHCR, ARRA continues to play a leading role in the overall refugee management operations in the country. As one of the largest refugee hosting nation in Africa, coming second to Uganda, Ethiopia plays host to more than 900,000 refugees in its 27 refugee camps and other transit centers spread across six regions in the country.
The Ethiopia government continues to uphold its long-standing refugee hospitality with its very generous open door policy, gaining international acclaim and veneration as a result.
As a signatory to the major international and regional refugee conventions and laws, our refugee protection norms do not fall out of the standards put forth in the refugee laws and conventions. Upholding the rights of refugees continues to be my government’s priority as we venture to new ways of doing business. With the significant pledges made in September 2016 at the leader’s summit in New York, Ethiopia is embarking on yet another promising venture to dramatically change the lives of refugees meaningfully.
To this end, the government of Ethiopia formally launched the application of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), effectively paving the way for the implementation of the nine pledges it made at the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees in September 2016 in New York. In October 2017, the Ethiopian government, through ARRA , launched civil registration for refugees in the country for the first time allowing refugees receive certificates of their vital events including birth, marriage, divorce and death.
The 9 pledges, as we like to call them, encompass a variety of generous provisions including the expansion of the out-of-camp policy to include non-Eritrean refugees, access to employment and work permits for refugee graduates in areas permitted for foreign workers, increased self reliance and land access, job creation, local integration for protracted refugees as well as rolling out other provisions including allowing refugees to open bank accounts, obtain driving licenses, issuing birth certificates to children of refugees and all the other benefits to which any foreigner with a legal permanent residence permit is entitled to.
Such provisions are believed to be a milestone since the most recent history of the Ethiopian refugee regime. The provisions not only do uplift refugee lives during their stay but also matures them to become productive citizens in any reconstruction efforts in their countries of origin. Representatives of the donor community were very much behind this initiative expressing their readiness to do their best to provide all the means necessary to successfully implement the Pledges. That is a big and promising start.
Furthermore, we are on a speedy track to legalization of the regulation governing the implementation of the pledges. The ARRA can’t stand alone in this monumental task. In this regard, we count on our excellent relationship with our partners, growing stronger by the day. Our relationship with UNHCR in particular has been so strong and exemplary. This strong partnership enabled the two agencies to effectively coordinate the response to several refugee emergencies, including the ongoing South Sudan emergency that started in 2011.
As we embark on a new and more efficient way of doing business and embrace innovative approaches to refugee protection, this partnership will continue to be elevated to an even newer height. ARRA has always strived to position itself as one of the best refugee service providing organizations in the country through implementing new initiatives and installing new systems. In its bid to cater the best services to refugees, ARRA is yet on another ambitious and comprehensive restructuring programme to become more responsive to the challenges of the day. This will infuse new dynamism and efficiency to the way we operate.
Accommodating huge influx of refugees requires the need for more resources. The government of Ethiopia calls for increased attention to the plight of refugees and to be able to discharge its responsibilities of refugee protection. The support of the international donor community is therefore imperative. It is our ardent belief that the international community would continue its unreserved support to the cause of refugees.
ARRA, as in previous years, continues to expedite its responsibilities and expresses its commitment to continue providing the necessary protection and assistance to refugees and further maintain Ethiopia’s good records in respecting international refugee conventions it has ratified. Refugees do need the treatment and the love we have continued to show to them. Hosting communities, in particular, should be commended for their generosity in sharing the meager resources they have . We urge Ethiopians to continue extending their welcoming hands to people who are like every one of us with real needs. We remain grateful to hosting communities in all the regions for their kind-hearted support and hospitality they have shown to refugees.