UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, welcomes the historic new Ethiopian refugee law that will now allow refugees to obtain work permits, access primary education, obtain driving licenses, legally record life events such as births and marriages and open access to national financial services, such as banking.
On Thursday (January 17, 2019) the Ethiopian parliament adopted its revisions in its current refugee law, making it one of the most progressive refugee policies in Africa.
"The passage of this historic law represents a significant milestone in the long history of Ethiopia to accommodate and host refugees from across the region for decades," said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. "By offering refugees the opportunity to integrate better into society, Ethiopia does not just comply with its international refugee law obligations, but serves as a model for other nations hosting refugees around the world."
The Ethiopian review of its refugee law comes just weeks after the United Nations General Assembly accepted the Global Compact on Refugees on December 17, 2018. At the heart of this new innovative framework is a broader response to the displacement where refugees are included in national services such as health and education, rather than establishing parallel systems. It also focuses on ensuring refugees the opportunity to be self-sufficient and can contribute to local economies in a way that also benefits their guests.
UNHCR was involved in the process of drafting the revision of the Refugee Act, led by the Agency for Refugee and Returne Affairs in Ethiopia, ARRA. It replaces the 2004 Refugee Proclamation which also confirmed the key principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 OAU Convention, which limited certain refugee rights, such as freedom of movement and access to education, and did not mention integration.
Ethiopia currently hosts over 900,000 refugees, mainly from neighboring South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea, as well as fewer refugees from Yemen and Syria.
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