Ethiopia draws road-map to integrate refugees into its economy

By Africa Monitors

There seems to be a glimpse of hope and change in the livelihood of refugees living in Ethiopia as the government officially launches a Comprehensive Refugees Response Framework (CRRF), committing itself in providing a better atmosphere for every refugee.

The programme is set to address the fundamental needs of all refugees, who have been deprived of legal work permits in the country. This framework is expected to pave the way for the implementation of the nine pledges the government has made last year on refugees during the leaders’ summit, some of them being providing work permits, facilitating local integration, expanding and enhancing basic and essential social services and out-of-camp policy reinforcements. These pledges are hoped to boost refugees’ self-reliance by providing sustainable responses that would go beyond care and maintenance of refugees.As the Ethiopian government intends to close all camps in the country in the coming ten years, the launching of CRRF will enhance the out-of-camp and integration programmes, putting the encampment policy to an end. The recipient of US$100 million fund benefit from the World Bank, Ethiopia is seeking to use and incorporate refugees in its National Transformation programme.

Although difficult to gauge the prospect of this ambitious programme on its outset, the idea of integration with the host-community, by creating and providing extensive job opportunities is still mouth-watering and alluring. It is common knowledge that the Ethiopian government had never allowed work permits, but with the beginning of CRRF, refugees would have the chance to engage themselves in gainful employment, which would play a vital role in their life, creating relief and stability.

Eritrean refugees attending food preparation training in Hitsats refugee camp Photo:UNHCR

Furthermore, the programme will allow 10% of the employment opportunities in the new industrial parks underway on different parts of the country to be reserved for refugees. Control mechanisms and responsibility-sharing will be important to ensure that the objectives are met.

The ultimate question everyone is asking is if this ambitious and bold framework would have the desired and intended impact in the livelihood of refugees. Given the acknowledged technical delays being acceptable and plausible, it is everyone’s fear that it might not be implemented as planned. If implemented as planned, refugees would be able to settle and have a sense of accomplishment and belonging that would allow them stability in their lives and thereby slowing the flow of refugees to other countries.

The Ethiopian government has already taken some major steps in an effort to ease the difficulties refugees face in possessing legal documents pertaining to vital life events such as births and marriages. A new proclamation in the summer of 2017 allows vital documents including birth and marriage certificates to be issued to all refugees on demand.

The majority of the Eritrean refugees are expected to benefit from the resettlement and complimentary pathways, which will include family reunification and family-based mobility, scholarships, educational programmes and sponsorships.

In light of the broad objectives of CRRF, Ethiopia would ease the pressure through community-based approach by increasing the self-reliance of refugees and host-communities, encouraging third party solutions and supporting communities in countries of origin, to create a encouraging atmosphere for sustainable voluntary repatriation.

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