Ethiopia: Refugee camps overwhelmed by Eritrean refugees 

Following the border opening and free movements of people between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the Eritrean exodus to Ethiopia is continuing unabated at an unprecedented rate. The flow of Eritreans to Ethiopia has increased drastically. In October, the UNHCR reported the increase of Eritrea asylum seekers in Ethiopia as follows.

The reopening of the border crossing points between Eritrea and Ethiopia has resulted in a significant increase in the number of new arrivals from Eritrea, with the average daily rate of arrivals increasing from 53 to approximately 390 individuals. Between 12 September and 02 October 2018, a total of 6,779 refugees were registered at the Endabaguna Reception Centre with a further 2,725 others at the border points awaiting relocation to Endabaguna. Approximately 4,000 have already been transferred to the camps. … Women and children constitute approximately 90% of the new arrivals, in contrast with the current population profile of the Eritrean camps in Tigray, where young men were the majority.[1]

 

The opening of border and the free movement of people between the two countries is one of the main reasons for the increase in the flow of people to Ethiopia. As the results, the refugee camps Eritrean refugees are overstretched and overwhelmed by the increase of the flow of Eritreans refugees. These refugee camps are: Mai-Ayni, Adi-Harush, Hitsats and Shemelba. Especially the Endabaguna screening and registration central office is overwhelmed by new arrivals. This is the temporary receiving centre where the asylum seekers are screened and registered before they are transferred to the refugee camps. It is  a temporary centre for the new arrivals while they are screened. However, nowadays, the drastic increase in the flow of Eritreans seeking asylum has overwhelmed the centre. Hence, the authority administering the centre has been forced to rent pensions and hotels for the refugees while waiting to complete the screening and registration process.  Previously the processing time for screening and registration of an asylum application took on average three days only but now it takes up to a week.

Correspondingly the number of Eritrean refugees has increased drastically. This has stretched the available resources in the refugee camps to cope with and overwhelmed the authorities. Many families are made to share the existing shelter (huts) creating extreme overcrowding and difficult conditions. For example in the refugee camp of Hitsats, on average on daily basis 4 buses arrive carrying about 250 people. Of course there are variations in the number of buses arriving in a day in the refugee camp. In some days around 10 buses arrive in the refugee camp carrying more 500 people. Hitsats, Mai-ayni and Adi Harush are the camps that are receiving the new arrivals in the Tigray regional states with Shemalba receiving only the Kunama ethnic group.

In order to reduce the pressure authorities in the refugee camps are encouraging the refugees to move out of the refugees and settle in the towns and cities by speeding up the urban resettlement process. In the past the process used to take about three months but now it takes about five days only.

New arrivals in the refugee camps receives monthly rations of 4 kilos of rice, 5.5 kilos of wheat, 1 liter of cooking oil, one handful of salt per person. In addition, each refugee receives a blanket, a bar of soap and 60 birr cash. Besides, the refugees receive free medical and education services. In order to enable children start attending school in time, education registration process was accelerated as authorities have given a great deal of attention to education. Some of those who have passed secondary school leaving examinations have been offered free scholarships in the Ethiopian higher education learning institutes.

[1] https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/66202.pdf

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