Ethiopia to implement new refugee framework

Yusuf Mohamed Ali, 42, and his family. He came as a refugee from Bey Dedawa, Somalia in 2007. Four of his nine children have been born in the camp. LWF supported him with chicken so he could start poultry production. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner

“Change the way we look at refugees”

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has welcomed the commitment of the Ethiopian government to the protection of refugees with the official launch of the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in Ethiopia on 28 November 2017.

“This will change the way we look at refugees: not just as victims but rather as active  and contributing members of society,” says Sophia Gebreyes, LWF Country Representative in Ethiopia.

Rights which we take for granted

The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) is a commitment by UN member states during the 2016 UN General Assembly meeting in New York, to take steps for the protection of refugees and their integration with host communities. Ethiopia was selected to be one of the pilot countries for the implementation of this approach.

The CRRF will change the way we look at refugees: not just as victims but rather as active and contributing members of society.
Sophia Gebreyes, LWF Country Representative in Ethiopia

The Ethiopian government represented by His Excellency Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegne made pledges on nine areas: expanding the out of camp policy to other nationalities, allowing refugees to locally integrate with nationals, allowing refugees to work in Ethiopia, and allowing refugees access and use to land. LWF played a key role supporting the Ethiopian Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) in the background preparations leading to the official launch of this framework.

“The CRRF and the nine pledges that the Ethiopian Government made will greatly enhance  the celebrated tradition of hosting and protecting refugees in Ethiopia by promoting a life with  dignity for refugees,” Gebreyes says. “It is giving them rights that you and I take for granted  everyday, such as freedom of movement, permit to work, access to land and documentation, to mention just a few.”

Change of project design

Ethiopia is hosting close to 900,000 refugees mostly from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. LWF has been working in Ethiopia for over four decades, after establishing its presence in 1973 at the request of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) to alleviate the suffering  caused by the severe drought in Ethiopia at the time. Many of the people LWF works with in Ethiopia are long-term refugees and their host communities who are living close to the borders with Somalia, South Sudan and Eritrea.

LWF supports these communities through training and income-generating activities. The CRRF provides the framework to turn these activities, which are currently limited to the refugee settlements, into a livelihood for the people.

 LWF/ C. Kästner

Many Somali refugees in eastern Ethiopia have been living in these camps for more than 10 years, LWF provides training and helps them set up a small business. The CRRF will help them to fully support themselves. Photo: LWF/ C. Kästner

“The CRRF will also call us to change how we design refugee response projects by focussing on self-reliance and integrating refugee and host community responses,” Gebreyes says, emphasizing that refugee-hosting communities need support to implement. “CRRF is all about burden and responsibility sharing, and it will not be successful without resources that capitalize  on Ethiopia's willingness to find durable solutions to refugee  crisis in the country.  We appeal to churches, donor governments, humanitarian  and development actors  to sufficiently resource this initiative that was officially launched yesterday,” she concludes.

LWF already has experience with the new refugee framework in Uganda, which was the first country to implement the new commitment. According to international partners, changes are already visible in increased school enrolment, documents such as birth certificates being issued and a greater self-reliance of refugees.

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