MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR GENERAL
Ethiopia has centuries-old tradition of hosting refugees and asylum seekers and most recently, it has further strengthened its overall refugee response mechanisms in a way that can maximize the benefits of refugees and host communities. The Government of Ethiopia maintains its generous open door asylum policy albeit it has very limited resources to support the peoples who are uprooted by a range of man-made calamities.
The country is currently hosting more than 900,000 refugees from some 26 countries, making it the third largest hosting nation in Africa. The majority of these refugees originate from neighboring South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and the Sudan. The majority of the refugees are currently sheltered in 25 camps, while some others are allowed to live outside the camps including the capital Addis Ababa, by the Out of Camp Policy (OCP) as well as with due recognition of the urban refugee status to eligible persons. The Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) 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 despite any political, ideological and/or situational changes.
On top of its firm commitment to maintaining the asylum space in the country, the Government of Ethiopia 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, the special initiatives include the adoption of the very historic and progressive refugee proclamation that grants more righteous benefits to refugees and enables them to access basic and social services such as all levels of education; pursue more socio-economic opportunities; move around freely within the country; access state services in relation with civil registration and other related documents; work and learn new skills; and make a positive contribution in the country of asylum and also their countries of origin.
The newly revised 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 create conducive legal environment for the implementation of the nine pledges that the Government has made during the Leaders’ Summit in 2016 in New York and for the practical application of 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 takes into account contextual diversities and ultimately aims at creating self-reliant and resilient refugees and host communities through meaningful consultation and coordination at all levels.
ARRA is committed to expand its partnership to ensure comprehensive and holistic reintegration support; improve national reintegration frameworks; and to mobilize more resource. To this effect, we are closely working with the European Union (EU) and other 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.
A protracted and very complex emergency situation, which portrays the current refugee displacement in Ethiopia, is now creating immense socio-economic and environmental impacts including significant strain on the natural resources. Therefore, it is important to stress that the solution towards such a prolonged stay of the refugees together with tens of thousands of new arrivals entering into the country critically entails 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 had better reflect on my deep concern on the huge shortage of both humanitarian and development funding, which is the key challenge for the Government on its continued efforts to improve the lives of refugees, returnees and host communities.
Therefore, on the basis of the high level principles of the international burden and responsibility sharing, I would like to urge all stakeholders to renew their firm commitment to do more and maximize their support for the successful realization of the Government’s multifaceted commitments.
In a nutshell, I would like to reaffirm my Agency’s determination to strengthen ongoing efforts towards expanding partnership to engage a broader range of stakeholders covering many aspects of refugees, returnees and host communities in Ethiopia.
I Thank You!
Mr. Tesfahun Gobezay
Director General, ARRA