On Thursday, the government of Ethiopia passed a law that gave refugees the right to work and live out of camps. The law, which is in line with the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees, was adopted by world leaders in December 2018. Under this law, refugees are now able to register births, marriages and deaths, and will have access to financial services such as bank accounts.
With more than 900,000 refugees in the country, Ethiopia is home to Africa’s second largest refugee population after Uganda. Most of these displaced people are from neighbouring countries such as South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. They are spread out across different camps in the country and are not allowed to work, until this law, which also allows them access to regular schools and to travel and work across the country.
“We are happy to inform that the new refugee proclamation has been enacted by the House of Peoples’ Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia…It is strongly believed that the new law will enhance the lives of refugees and host communities,” Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) said.
The move comes at a time when a lot of countries are passing xenophobic laws and policies and has been welcomed by different organisations in the world.
“The law will help refugees feel included and that they can contribute to society,” said Dana Hughes, spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency in East Africa.
Ethiopia is the second African country to pass such a law. In December, Niger passed a law that would see the government help displaced people. Most of the refugees in the country came from Mali and Nigeria, which are grappling with violence from Boko Haram as well as Africans crossing the Sahara on their journey to the Mediterranean.