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2014 UNHCR country operations profile - Ethiopia

| Overview |

Working environment

  • Due to its geographical position, as well as environmental and geo-political developments in the region, Ethiopia is likely to continue to receive asylum-seekers from neighbouring countries in 2014 and 2015. The country has a history of receiving people displaced by cross-border movements due to droughts, conflicts, political events and civil wars in neighbouring countries, including Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan. The Government of Ethiopia maintains an open-door-policy and has continuously allowed humanitarian access and protection to those seeking refuge on its territory.

  • Ethiopia received over 44,000 new arrivals in the first eight months of 2013, leading to a total population of concern of more than 400,000 people, who are mainly accommodated in camps throughout the country. The Government has been generous in allocating land for the 18 existing camps, including in Dollo Ado, Shire, Gambella and Assosa, and for new camps to be opened as the majority of existing camps have reached their maximum capacity. In addition, the Government provides police forces in the camps and facilitates customs clearance for internationally procured items.

  • Eritrean refugees, including unaccompanied minors who continue to arrive in increasing numbers, tend to move on from Ethiopia to a third country, a situation which presents a major challenge in providing protection.

  • There are no provisions under Ethiopia's law for local integration of refugees. While the country maintains reservations to the 1951 Convention, notably to Articles 17-19, it supports an out-of-camp scheme, allowing refugees to live outside refugee camps and engage in informal sector activities as livelihood opportunities. The main beneficiaries thus far have been students absorbed into universities, whose fees are paid for by the Government (75 per cent) and UNHCR (25 per cent).

  • Environmental degradation around camps, the fragile ecosystem and scarce resources have led to tensions between host communities and refugees in some locations. UNHCR is working with partners and the Government to address and mitigate the situation within the confines of limited resources.

People of concern

In 2014, the main groups of people of concern under the Ethiopia operation are: Somali refugees, living in Dollo Ado and Jijiga camps (eight camps in total) and a small number in Addis Ababa, who sought protection in Ethiopia due to insecurity in Somalia or arrived as a result of the famine in Somalia in 2011; Eritrean refugees, including unaccompanied and separated children, seeking asylum in Ethiopia. Eritrean refugees are mainly located in camps in Shire, Tigray region and Afar region, with a number of urban refugees in Addis Ababa and Mekele; Sudanese refugees fleeing fighting between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North and the Sudanese Armed Forces in Blue Nile State of Sudan who live in three camps in the Assosa area in Benishangul Gumuz region; and South Sudanese refugees in camps in the Gambella region or in host communities in Wanthowa Woreda and Raad, most of whom fled Jonglei State to escape inter-ethnic conflict.

Planning figures

UNHCR 2014 planning figures for Ethiopia
TYPE OF POPULATION ORIGIN Dec 2013 Dec 2014 Dec 2015
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total in country of whom assisted
Total 409,040 409,040 482,950 482,950 520,120 520,120
Refugees Eritrea 86,010 86,010 101,950 101,950 116,750 116,750
Somalia 235,920 235,920 265,630 265,630 285,240 285,240
Sudan 82,090 82,090 110,620 110,620 113,510 113,510
Various 4,220 4,220 4,100 4,100 3,970 3,970
Asylum-seekers Eritrea 50 50 50 50 50 50
Somalia 200 200 200 200 200 200
Sudan 300 300 200 200 200 200
Various 250 250 200 200 200 200

| Response |

Needs and strategies

In 2014, UNHCR will continue to provide protection and assistance to over 400,000 people in Ethiopia who are seeking refuge from insecurity, oppression or famine in the neighbouring countries. The Office will continue to carry out its strategy, developed in coordination with partners, to address the needs of the population of concern.

The Office will provide life-saving assistance in 18 existing camps and four new camps to open in 2014, while enhancing protection by improving registration, basic services, response to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and child protection strategies.

While emergency response preparedness will be strengthened, the Office will move to stabilizing the operations including focusing on fostering resilience through livelihood activities. Resettlement remains the most viable durable solution.

The above mentioned are priorities in Ethiopia for all groups.

| Implementation |


UNHCR's main Government counterpart and implementing partner in Ethiopia will continue to be the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). The Office will build on achievements made in 2012 and 2013, including continuing coordination forums such as the Refugee Task Force, co-chaired by UNHCR and ARRA. Donor and NGO forums will continue to be held at the central level and inter-agency meetings at the field and camp levels.

The Office will continue to engage with UNICEF, guided by the letter of understanding and plan of action on the coordination of critical activities in the sectors of child protection, health and nutrition, education, and water and sanitation in 2014.

UNHCR is fully engaged in the Humanitarian Country Team in Ethiopia, where the refugee programmes are discussed strategically to ensure that the needs of refugees are adequately presented and addressed.

In 2014, UNHCR will continue leading the protection cluster within the Ethiopian cluster set-up with the main objectives of strengthening coordination and advocacy for further engagement with the Ethiopian Government, capacity building and mainstreaming protection into other sectors.

2014 UNHCR partners in Ethiopia
Implementing partners
Government agencies: Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs, Bureau of Agriculture, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Natural Resources Development and Protection, Natural Resources Development and Environmental Protection
NGOs: Action contre la Faim, Afar Pastoralists Development Association, African Humanitarian Action, African Humanitarian Aid and Development Agency, Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission, Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Gaia Association International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Jesuit Refugee Service, Lutheran World Federation, Mother and Child Development Organization, Norwegian Refugee Council, Opportunities in Industrialization Centre, Oxfam Partner for Refugee Services, Partnership for Pastoralists Development Association, Pastoralist Welfare Organization, Rehabilitation and Development Organization, Save the Children, Save the Environment, Tselemetwereda Agriculture and Rural Development Office, World Vision International
Operational partners
NGOs: Danish Refugee Council, GOAL, HelpAge International, Health and Human Services, HUMEDICA Médecins sans Frontières (France, the Netherlands and Spain), ZOA Refugee Care

| Financial information |

Over the last four years, as a result of two emergency situations and the influx of refugees since 2011, the financial requirements for UNHCR's operation in Ethiopia have significantly increased from USD 100.2 million in 2010 to a revised 2013 budget of USD 192.8 million, and as high as USD 218.7 million in 2012. The 2014 financial requirements for Ethiopia are set at USD 199.8 million and are fully allocated to refugees across five groups: Eritreans, Somalis, South Sudanese, Sudanese, and urban refugees.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at January 2014
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons whose application for asylum or refugee status is pending at any stage in the procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013. Source: Country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first six months of 2013.
  7. Refers to persons under UNHCR's statelessness mandate.
  8. Persons of concern to UNHCR not included in the previous columns but to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance.
  9. The category of people in a refugee-like situation is descriptive in nature and includes groups of people who are outside their country of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Ethiopia [1]
Refugees [2] 433,936
Asylum Seekers [3] 934
Returned Refugees [4] 29
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 1,004
Total Population of Concern 435,903
Originating from Ethiopia [1]
Refugees [2] 77,118
Asylum Seekers [3] 48,661
Returned Refugees [4] 29
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 3,242
Total Population of Concern 129,050

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New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden


In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.


Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Climate change and displacement

In the past few years, millions of people have been displaced by natural disasters, most of which are considered to be the direct result of climate change. Sudden weather events, such as Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis in 2008, widespread flooding in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps in 2006 and the drought that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s, can leave huge numbers of people traumatized and without access to shelter, clean water and basic supplies.

The international community has entrusted UNHCR with responsibility for protecting and assisting people who are forcibly displaced and who cannot return safely home. Although the majority of people displaced by climate change will remain within their own borders, where states have clearly defined responsibilities, additional support may be required.

When called upon to intervene, UNHCR can deploy emergency teams and provide concrete support in terms of registration, documentation, family reunification and the provision of shelter, basic hygiene and nutrition.

Among those who are displaced across borders as a result of climate change, some will be refugees while others may not meet the definition. Nevertheless, many may be in need of protection and assistance.

Climate change and displacement

New arrivals in Ethiopia: Remote Dolo Ado becomes a safe haven for 10,000 Somalis fleeing violence

Since the beginning of this year an estimated 10,000 Somalis have crossed the border and sought shelter in Dolo Ado, a remote, sun-scorched and predominantly Somali corner of south-east Ethiopia. Most have fled insecurity, following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from south and central Somalia and the takeover of these areas by insurgent elements. At the peak of the influx in early February 2009, about 150 people were crossing the border each day.

In reponse, a UNHCR emergency team was sent to help run a transit centre in Dolo Ado. In addition, UNHCR dispatched convoys carrying emergency aid, including mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and plastic sheets. Relief efforts are being coordinated with other UN agencies and NGOs to ensure needs are being met.

Although a number of displaced Somalis within south and central Somalia have started to return, mainly to Mogadishu, many Somalis remain in Dolo Ado in need of protection. Given the poor prospects for repatriation in the foreseeable future, a camp is now under development and refugees are being screened.

New arrivals in Ethiopia: Remote Dolo Ado becomes a safe haven for 10,000 Somalis fleeing violence

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

During two decades of conflict and chaos in Somalia, Mohammed Ousman stayed in Mogadishu and taught art as others fled the country. But life became impossible after Al Shabaab militants killed his brother for continuing to practise art. Four of the man's nine children were also murdered. Mohammed closed his own "Picasso Art School" and married his brother's widow, in accordance with Somali custom. But without a job, the 57-year-old struggled to support two families and eventually this cost him his first family. Mohammed decided to leave, flying to Berbera in Somaliland in late 2011 and then crossing to Aw-Barre refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he joined his second wife and her five children. UNHCR transferred Mohammed and his family to Addis Ababa on protection grounds, and in the belief that he could make a living there from his art. But he's discovering that selling paintings and drawings can be tough - he relies on UNHCR support. The following images of the artist and his family were taken by UNHCR's Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

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