Ethiopia is currently hosting close to a million refugees from some 26 countries, making it the second largest hosting nation in Africa. The majority of these refugees originate from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan. In Ethiopia, majority of the refugees are currently sheltered in 27 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 Refugee and Returnee 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 and political 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 government, political ideology, and situation 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 both the refugee and host communities. Among other things the special initiatives include, the recent 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. It is believed that the newly revised refugee proclamation will 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 account of contextual diversities and ultimately aims at creating self-reliant and resilient refugees and host communities through a new way of working that promotes meaningful consultation and coordination at all levels with the wide array of stakeholders and creates the Humanitarian and Development nexus.
Furthermore, ARRA was formerly one of the main departments within the country’s security organ. Nevertheless, it has recently been reorganized independently and simultaneously elevated to an Agency status. We strongly believe that this restructuring along with the deployment of a new leadership to the agency, will have an added value in ensuring ARRA’s continued role in strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of the refugee and returnee operation approach and model in Ethiopia anchored in international cooperation including the recently adopted Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration, as well as other international, regional, national mechanisms and initiatives.
On the other hand, the issue of migration and reintegration is becoming a priority for the Government of Ethiopia. Hence, the new Leadership at ARRA is committed to expand its partnership basis so as to strengthen the comprehensive and holistic reintegration support; improve national reintegration frameworks; and to increase resources. To this end, we are now closely working with the European Union (EU) and other partners to ensure the provision of sustainable reintegration support to Ethiopian returnees from various countries.
At this juncture, I would like to express my deep concern on the huge shortage of both humanitarian and development funding, which is now the key challenge for the Government on its continued efforts to improve the lives of the 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 to maximize their support for the successful realization of the Government’s multifaceted commitments.
Finally, I would like to reaffirm our commitment to strengthen the Agency’s ongoing efforts towards expanding partnership to engage a broader range of stakeholders covering many aspects of refugees, returnees and host communities in the country.
Ato Kebede Chane
Director General, ARRA