Refugees, Returnees Affairs Calls on Int’l Community to Step up Support for Refugees in Ethiopia

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Addis Ababa September 29/2021 (ENA) Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) has called upon the international community to step up support for the more than 900,000 refugees in Ethiopia.

In his exclusive interview with ENA, ARRA Director-General Tesfahun Gobezay stated that Ethiopia is implementing world’s most progressive refugee proclamation that grants refugees with an array of socio-economic rights.

He also said that Ethiopia has been working to create job opportunities for the refugees in joint projects and in micro and small enterprises.

However, the director general has called for an increased support from the international community towards the over 900,000 refugees scattered in 26 refugee camps across the country.

“Ethiopia pledged to the international community to create job opportunities for the refugees in joint projects and in micro and small enterprises. So we are calling to the international community to comply with their end, because it is not only Ethiopia that pledged, Ethiopia pledged to give opportunities and create the necessary framework for the refugees. But we are also calling for the international community to step up their assistance to the operations, so that we can fulfill the pledges we made,” Tesfahun stressed.

Following the approval of the proclamation, he said, the Government of Ethiopia has enlisted resident permit guideline and prepared manuals that bridge the guidelines set out in the proclamation.

The government together with partners is also undertaking an irrigation project that benefited over 30,000 refugees and hosting communities to mainly ensure the refugees’ self-reliance in food security, he added.  

“We have enlisted some guidelines that can serve as bridges to realize the proclamation and the guidelines that are set out in the proclamation.These are the resident permit guideline and other manuals that would help fulfill the pledges made in the proclamation,” he said.

The proclamation allows refugees to obtain work permits, access primary education, obtain drivers’ licenses, legally register life events such as births and marriages and open up access to national financial services, such as banking, it was learned.

“They have the right to work, own license, bank account, and freedom of movement and out of camp privileges for those who comply with our guidelines,” he pointed out.

The law has “given an array of rights to refugees who are staying in Ethiopia…to realize these aims, we are also working with international community to make sure that refugees who are staying in Ethiopia have self-reliance. So we are working on self-reliance and other durable solutions for the refugees,” Tesfahun said.

At the heart of the framework is a more comprehensive response to displacement in which refugees are included in national services like health and education, rather than setting up parallel systems.

It also focuses on ensuring refugees have the opportunity to be self-reliant and can contribute to local economies in a way that also benefits their hosts.

ARRA Director-General indicated that humanitarian operation shouldn’t be subject to political affiliation of countries.

“We believe refugee operation is humanitarian operation and it shouldn’t be subject to political affiliation of countries and we still strongly believe hosting refugees and helping them to be self-reliant is in the best interest of every country in the world. It’s not only Ethiopia’s responsibility to take care of refugees and we don’t think that this should be subject to any kind of political affiliation or disaffiliation between countries,” he said.

Most of the over 900,000 refugees in Ethiopia live in under developed localities that need different developments, with about 45 percent living in Gambella region.

The agency is also working in partnership with partners for the safety of refugees in areas of insecurity, particularly in Tigray.

The refugees in Ethiopia mainly came from neighboring countries including Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, but also from other African and Middle East countries.

The parliament adopted revisions in the existing refugee law in 2019 to create favorable conditions for refugees in the country which was hailed by the international community.