31 August 2017

Ethiopia: Carving Opportunities Out of Refugees

Ethiopia has always been a country with a long tradition of refugee care and hospitality going back to earliest times. Currently, the country has become a home to over 850,000 refugees of 21 nationalities sheltered in twenty seven refugee camps located in six of its states, urban centers and out of camp settlements.

South Sudanese, Somalis, Eritreans and Sudanese refugees make up the four largest refugees population in Ethiopia. Of the total figure, there are small number of refugees from other countries such as Yemen and Djibouti where many of them are urban dwellers mainly residing in the capital.

Population is the greatest asset of any country that has a potential for development. To the contrary, refugees' influx can cause wide ranging socioeconomic, political and economic burden.

The large populations in the refugee camps, however, could contribute to development if treated and managed at the right way, says Lecturer and Researcher of Public Policy Studies at Dilla University Motti Mossisa.

Motti recommends that in order to turn the large number of refugees in to development agents, contextual refugee policy, foreign policy, border controlling strategy and reviewing citizenship application processing times and proactively dealing with implications of refugees are of great importance.

At recently conducted conference at the Addis Ababa University, Protection Associate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Ephrem Tadesse for his parts states that supporting both refugees and host communities; designing lasting solutions and enhancing self-reliance of refugees, improving their access to socio-economic services enable to make them opportunities and minimize burdens of refugees.

The fact that the 'Shiraro' Town in Tigrai State has been the first town in remittance is due to the large numbers of refugees in 'Mai Aini Refugee Camp' nearby the town says Ephrem adding that the fast infrastructural development in rural Ethiopian Somali State is the other manifestation of refugees being opportunities

Taking into consideration the benefit of integrating humanitarian intervention with local development plans, Ethiopia has shown political commitment to integrate new refugee hosting policy and frameworks, make its refugee program a more humanitarian resettlement program and a model for the rest of the world, says Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA).Public Relations Officer Suleyman Ali Seid,

He stated that it is important to underline that Ethiopian borders are always remain open to asylum-seekers who flee from their homelands and seek country's protection. Ethiopia will accept people fleeing conflicts and instability as it is the basis of Ethiopia's policy to host refugees.

At Leaders' Summit on Refugees conference held last September in New York, Ethiopia made pledges that encompass a variety of generous provisions including the expansion of the 'Out-of-Camp Policy' (OCP) Scheme for non-Eritrean refugees: to access employment and work permits for refugees to increase self reliance, 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, Suleyman adds.

He adds: "Ethiopia is one of the first five African countries currently participating in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF): a roadmap which is developed by the ARRA and UNHCR and detailing the implementation of each of the pledges, outlining key opportunities and partnerships that must be put in place. The country is incorporating the pledges into a legally-binding comprehensive proclamation and it is expected to be adopted soon."

In this regard, he says; "we count on our strong relationship with our partners, which is growing deeper by the day. Our relationship with UNHCR in particular has been so strong and exemplary; jointly coordinating responses to several emergencies including the ongoing South Sudan emergency. This partnership will further elevated to new heights."

The future amended version of the refugee legislation should enumerate to the maximum possible basic rights and duties of refugees available in the international refugee protection law if legal certainty is to be maintained and the rights be implemented by domestic authorities says Addis Ababa University, School of Law Professor Zelalem Teferra.

Ethiopia is revising its refugee legislation to enable refugees enjoy more rights, including the right to work and attend schools in the country.

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