Ethiopian lawmakers allows refugees to live outside of camps and work

January 18, 2019 (GMN) - Ethiopia passed a law giving almost 1 million refugees the right to work and live outside of camps, in a move praised for providing them with more dignity and reducing reliance on foreign aid.

Home to Africa's second largest refugee population after Uganda, Ethiopia hosts more than 900,000 people who have fled conflict, drought, and persecution in neighboring countries such as South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea.

The refugees many of whom sought refuge decades ago and have children born in Ethiopia are largely confined to one of about 20 camps across the country. Most are not permitted to work.

"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," Ethiopia's Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) said.

With record numbers of people being forced to flee their homes, most of the world's 25 million refugees are hosted by developing countries in camps where funding shortages often leave them short of basics like food and education.

The new law is in line with Ethiopia's commitment toward the United Nations Global Compact on Refugees, adopted by world leaders in December to increase refugees' self-reliance and ease the pressure on host nations.

The law allows refugees to move out of the camps, attend regular schools and to travel and work across the country.

Refugees can formally register births, marriages, and deaths, and will have access to financial services such as bank accounts.

The head of the Ethiopian Investment Commission Fitsum Arega said the new legislation was part of the country's "Jobs Compact" a $500 million program which aims to create 100,000 jobs 30 percent of which will be allocated to refugees. (Gambella Media)