Ethiopia has a long standing history of hosting refugees.
The country maintains an open door policy for refugee inflows into the country and allows humanitarian access and protection to those seeking asylum on its territory. In 2004, a national Refugee Proclamation was enacted based on the international and regional refugee conventions to which Ethiopia is a party (1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 OAU Convention). Refugee protection in the country is provided within the framework of these international and national refugee laws as well as the core international human rights treaties that have been ratified by the country.
Continued insecurity within neighbouring states has resulted in sustained refugee movements, either directly as a result of internal conflict and human rights abuses or as a result of conflict related to completion for scare natural resources and drought related food insecurity.
Eritreans, South Sudanese, Sudanese, Yemenis and Somalis originating from South and Central Somalia are recognized as prima facie refugees. Nationals from other countries undergo individual refugee status determination. The refugee flow to Ethiopia continued during 2017, with 109, 851 persons seeking safety and protection within the country’s borders. At the start of 2018, the nation hosted 892,555 thousand refugees who were forced to flee their homes as a result of insecurity, political instability, military conscription, conflict, famine and other problems in their countries of origin. Ethiopia is one of the largest refugee asylum countries world-wide, and the second largest in Africa, reflecting the ongoing fragility and conflict in the region.
Ethiopia provides protection to refugees from some 19 countries. Among the principal factors leading to this situation are predominantly the conflict in South Sudan, ongoing political instability in Eritrea, together with conflict and draught in Somalia.
The majority of refugees in Ethiopia are located in Tigray Regional State and the four Emerging Regions of Ethiopia: Afar Regional State; Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State; Gambella Regional State; and the Somali Regional State. The Emerging Regions are the least developed regions in the country, characterized by harsh weather conditions, poor infrastructure, low administrative capacity, a high level of poverty and poor development indicators. The arid environment in Afar and Somali regions and the small and scattered nomadic populations make it more challenging to provide services. Many parts of the four regions are inaccessible with poor or no roads.
The South Sudanese are the largest refugee population in Ethiopia, totalling 421,867 persons at the close of 2017. Renewed violence in Upper Nile, Jonglei and Unity States; that increasingly impacted border areas, has resulted in 75,447 new arrivals seeking asylum in 2017.
The majority were accommodated through the expansion of Nguenyyiel Camp in the Gambella Region, and in Gure Shembola Camp established in May 2017 in the Beneshangul Gumuz Region. Somalis constitute 28.3 percent of registered refugees, with 6,696 new arrivals during 2017, contributing to a total population of 253,889 individuals. Fleeing generalized instability and a third failed harvest, families were subsequently accommodated across five camps within the Somali region. The Eritrean caseload comprised 164,668 individuals at the end of the year, with 25,265 new arrivals received within the Shire and Afar Regions. Ethiopia also hosts an additional caseload of 52,131 individuals drawn from across the wider region; including from Sudan (44,386), Yemen (1,771), and other countries.
While continuing to respond to three concurrent emergencies, and mindful of the fluid socio-political context within the country, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) has advocated for stable humanitarian financing, while promoting wider investments in refugees’ selfreliance through an improved and sustainable response that goes beyond mere care and maintenance that combines wider support to host communities, furthering peaceful coexistence and the greater inclusion of refugees as part of broad national development plans. In November 2017, the Government formally launched the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in Ethiopia, 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.
Through the pledges, which serve as a vehicle for implementing the CRRF in the country, Ethiopia seeks to: expand its out-of-camp policy; provide work permits to refugees; increase enrolment in primary, secondary and tertiary education; provide access to irrigable land for crop cultivation; facilitate local integration in instances of protracted displacement; earmark a percentage of jobs within industrial parks to refugees; and provide access to vital events documentation to facilitate increased access to basic and essential social services. The planned amendment to the 2004 Refugee Proclamation, will enable refugees to become more independent, better protected and have greater access to local solutions.
Through the enabling environment created by the CRRF, the Ethiopia Country Refugee Response Plan (ECRRP) envisages improved coordination mechanisms to ensure timely and effective protection and solutions. The collective engagement of the Government and development actors will help to ensure that the needs of refugees are actively considered in the development agenda, and that complementary services are provided to refugees and their host communities. Fulfilling these considerable and measurable government commitments to further its duty of care to refugees, relative to its existing national resource constraints, will inevitably be based on the scale-up of equitable responsibility-sharing between UN Member States.
With continued refugee arrivals, and in light of ongoing verification taking place as part of Level 3 registration throughout the year, it is anticipated that Ethiopia will host 919,134 refugees by the end of 2018, mainly from South Sudan (485,000), Eritrea (131,343) and Somali (231,348). Within a climate of decreasing humanitarian and development financing; that has led to critical shortfalls in food assistance, limited opportunities for third-country resettlement, together with only modest support to youth and a growing population of unaccompanied and separated children, bold financial commitments - for essential humanitarian services and a sustainable solutions-based response - will be needed to harness the CRRF’s transformational agenda.