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World Refugee Day marked in Ethiopia with renewed commitment for refugee inclusion

Addis Ababa, June 20, 2023 (FBC) – The 2023 World Refugee Day (WRD) was marked today with a focus on durable solutions and a call for more support from the international community to enhance refugees’ access to national services.

Each year on June 20, the global community honors the strength and resilience of people who have been forced to flee their homes to escape conflict, persecution and other calamities, according to a press release of the UNHCR.

The 2023 World Refugee Day was marked in Aysaita, Afar Region, highlighting the power of inclusion and appeals to the international community to take more action in offering refugees more hope and opportunities so that they can rebuild their lives and give back to the communities hosting them.

Speaking on the occasion, Refugees and Returnees (RRS) Director-General Tesfahun Gobezay said that in order to share the ever-increasing burden and responsibility Ethiopia has been shouldering in hosting huge number of refugees and asylum seekers, the government urges humanitarian and development partners in tandem to engage seriously in responding to the needs of refugees more than any other time before.

The Government of Ethiopia is more than ready to welcome the private sector and create amicable environment for their involvement in the refugee response in line with government priorities, he added.

Refugee camps and sites across the country as well as the capital Addis Ababa are organizing various commemorative activities, including sports, cultural performances, tree planting, and more, on this day.

In Aysaita, home to some 27,000 Eritrean refugees, RRS, UNHCR and partners have organized the main national event, attended by federal and regional government officials, partners, refugees and host communities.

UNHCR Deputy Representative in Ethiopia, Margaret Atieno, said that “on this World Refugee Day, let’s take a moment to remember the thousands of refugee families that have been forced to flee to Ethiopia as a whole and to the Afar region in particular. Let’s also recognize and appreciate the generous hospitality of the people and Government of Ethiopia and thank donors and partners for helping Ethiopia respond to the needs of refugees.”

According to her, the day “is also an opportunity to celebrate Ethiopia’s progressive refugee policy and the government’s and host communities’ initial successes in including refugees in national services and systems.”

Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), together with partners, refugees and host communities, marked the day.

Ethiopia’s refugee law, revised in 2019, grants refugees a wide range of rights, including obtaining work permits, access primary education and health care and engaging in livelihood activities.

The government has also made a set of commitments at the first Global Refugee Forum (GRF) in 2019 to enhance protection and solutions for refugees and host communities.

In recent years, the government issued ID cards to over 315,000 refugees, created economic opportunities for some 130,000 people, including refugees and host communities; while nearly half a million refugees and host communities are able to access alternative energy solutions for cooking, lighting and other activities, it was learned.

Greater achievements can be attained if additional resources are made available to the government.

Across the Afar region, for example, refugees have equal access to schools, health facilities, water and land with host communities.

They meaningfully and productively engage together in shared crops, fishing and poultry projects, and they also work together at the local briquette factory and other small businesses and income generating activities.

In the Doolo zone of the Somali region, where around 100,000 refugees from neighboring Laascaanood district are hosted, the government is working to include refugees right from the onset allowing them to use existing services rather than building parallel ones, according to ENA.

The same approach is being pursued in response to the recent refugee inflows from Sudan who are arriving in the Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, and Gambella regions.

Ethiopia is the second largest refugee hosting country in Africa with nearly 1 million refugees.

World Refugee Day is being marked at a time when forced displacement figures have reached a record 110 million worldwide.

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