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(EritreaLive) Ethiopia changes the law for refugee camps

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Wednesday, 06 March 2019

 Ethiopia changes the law for refugee camps

Published by Marilena Dolce    March 5, 2019

Mai Aini, Ethiopia, one of the four refugee camps on the border with Eritrea. 
© Ong Gandhi Charity

Eritrean, in Ethiopia changes the law for refugee camps

From now on the Eritreans in the Ethiopian refugee camps will be able to move and have a job. A valid reason for not continuing the journey to the West.

At the beginning of this year, Ethiopia approved a new law to allow the million refugees of various nationalities who live in about 20 refugee camps on their territory, to work outside the camps.

A noteworthy difference if we remember that Ethiopia welcomes refugees in the refugee camps, after Uganda. People so far invisible, without rights or freedom.

We are happy to inform you that the new refugee law was passed in the House," said ARRA representative, Administration of Refugee and Return Affairs.

"The adoption of this law is a milestone in Ethiopia's long history of welcoming refugees, who have come for decades from the whole region," said Filippo Grandi,UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The basis for the change was the adoption in December 2018, during the General Assembly of the United Nations, of the Global Compact on Refugees. Legislation for the inclusion of refugees in the national service of the receiving country, both at the health level and for education.

Ensuring their freedom of movement and the right to exist legally, which means being able to register births, deaths, marriages.

In Ethiopia, UNHCR participated with ARRA in the drafting of this new law replacing the oldest one in 2004 (Refugee Proclamation) based on the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 African Union Convention. The old law limited certain rights , such as freedom of movement and access to education. Furthermore, it did not provide for integration into the society where the refugee camps are located.  

Now the refugees can leave the refugee camps, attend regular schools, work, open bank accounts, have a driving license.  

The head of the Ethiopian Investment Commission, Fitsum Arega said that the new legislation is part of the Job Compact, a $ 500 million program that aims to create 100,000 new jobs, 30 percent of which are for refugees .

In this way even the "refugees will support the development of Ethiopia" has tweeted Fitsum Arega.

A law that "will help refugees feel included in society," said Dana Hughes, spokeswoman for the United Nations Agency for Refugees for East Africa.

"Moreover," he added, "it not only benefits refugees but contributes to the economy of society. This legislation was therefore not only the right thing to do but also the smartest thing ".

In the past, for the Eritreans, the push factor, to get out of the country and reach the refugee camps first, then abroad, came from the West. Also from the Obama administration.

Once in Ethiopia, Eritreans are sorted into four refugee camps located in the Tigray region, the Ethiopian plateau that borders on Eritrea.

They are the fields of Shimbela, Mai-Aini, Adi Harush and Hitsats.

Shimbela is the oldest, created in 2004. Then in 2008 Mai-Aini was opened, which welcomes about 18 thousand refugees. Then, in 2010, Adi Harus where 29 thousand people are registered. Here, until 2012, we lived in tents, now replaced by mud and earth houses.

Before the new law from refugee camps, one could legally exit only for serious health reasons or for university studies. In both cases a government pass was necessary.

The OCP regulation, Out of Camp Policy, established for example that, in the case of Eritreans, these outputs belonged to those who had been in the camp for at least six months, with a clean criminal record and a reference sponsor if asked to study outside.  

In recent years, these permits have been given to 2,800 Eritreans.

Giancarlo Penza, from the Sant'Egidio Community, talks about the situation of the Eritreans in the refugee camps.

The Sant'Egidio community, like other religious and lay organizations, activated the first humanitarian corridors from Ethiopia to Italy last year.

The corridors are a channel provided for by Italian law for the resettlement of refugees. The institutions that activate them must guarantee the State to offer them food, accommodation and help to integrate.

Huminitary corridors, arrival in Italy. Giancarlo Penza, Sant'Egidio , with the vm to the Foreign Affairs Emanuela Del Re

However, the numbers of those arriving with the humanitarian corridors, compared to the flow by sea, (141 thousand people in 2018), are very small.

The organizations participating in this project can receive, by law, a maximum of 1,000 refugees in two years.

As for the Eritreans, however, after the peace with Ethiopia, arrivals in Italy have collapsed. They no longer belong to the first ten Unhcr nationalities.

"The peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia", says Penza "has had an impact on the Ethiopian public opinion very favorable. Everyone was happy, but for now the flow of Eritreans to Ethiopia has not diminished ".

IOM (International Organization of Migration) and NRC, Norwegian Refugee Council, declare, in relation to arrivals, that most of the young Eritreans who are in refugee camps do not want to stay there. Ethiopia is a step towards other destinations: Europe, America, Canada. 

"But there has been a change after peace," continues Penza, "because now that the borders on the plateau are open and no longer militarized, people can enter Ethiopia freely. The flow of migrants, therefore, is not yet finished. Even today, it seems that about 200 Eritreans on average enter the border every day and ask to be welcomed as refugees ", explains Penza.

"Pare" continues "that, for the moment, on these arrivals Eritrea and Ethiopia have not taken official positions. Immediately after the peace there was uncertainty. Many refugees told us that they could no longer register, precisely because entry was free. For the moment, however, there have been no changes ".

So when the Eritreans cross the border and arrive in Ethiopia, what happens?

"The refugee camp system is always the same. Eritreans arrive to the north of the country, in the Tigray. As soon as they cross the border they go to a field about 50 kilometers, Endabaguna. Here they are registered. Their identity and origin are asked. Then they are interrogated by an ARRA official. So sort out in one of the four camps for Eritreans, all close enough to each other.

There is close cooperation between ARRA and Unhcr.

So far the refugees have lived in closed camps ...

"The fields were closed to be rigorously managed. However, it must be said that the refugee camps are not located in isolated areas. They are far from large centers but close to many villages. Perhaps in the fields the standards on rights are far from those we are accustomed to, but we are not in Libya ...

Refugees receive food in refugee camps. Local NGOs take care of young people. For example, they teach a trade. There is an effort on the part of the Ethiopian government because people can live in the fields. Recall that Ethiopia receives one million refugees of which the Eritreans are only a small part.

The vulgate for which migrants in Italy are better than others makes us laugh, but in Ethiopia it's a bit like that. It may be that if they pass it better ".

Now the new law will allow refugees to work, a positive decision already previously proposed ...

"Many refugees were working illegally in Addis Ababa ( ed, before the law was passed)" . "For this reason," continues Penza, "UNHCR had already launched work programs for refugees. Projects that could affect 10-20 thousand young people. I know this because I attended the preparatory meetings in the first few months of 2018.

Eritrean refugees are a major problem for the Ethiopian government, because they are trying to block their secondary movements. An ethical question first of all. No one wants them to flee from Ethiopia and end up in the hands of traffickers ... ".

It was said however that within the camps there were traffics of this type ...

"I do not know. In my experience there has always been severity about attempts at corruption. I would like to say that there has been a very interventionist field management, just to check the traffic. A way to protect refugees from traffic.

I can give an example. We started the humanitarian corridors in Ethiopia at the end of 2017. The first trip was preceded by a long stay in Ethiopia, to explain the affair to all the institutions involved. I remember that the ARRA executives called us. They were wary. What happened? The project's voice had immediately spread. So, some, saying they were from Sant'Egidio, asked for money to put people on a list of corridors "...

Tornado to the young Eritreans who arrive in the fields, are all illiterate?

"In reverse. Have studied. They come out of good schools. In Asmara there is also a school and an institute of Italian culture among the best in the world.

The Eritrean boys have remarkable skills . Precisely for this reason they want a job and for the moment they go abroad, where they think there is ".

According to the 2014 report prepared by the Danish Immigration Service, after the trip to Eritrea and Ethiopia, the identikit of the Eritrean migrant is that of a young, healthy and educated man.

Post-independence Eritrea has focused a lot on school. Some data. In 1991, before independence, there were 471 schools in all of Eritrea for 220,000 boys. Only one University, in Asmara. Today there are 1,540 schools for 860 thousand students and 7 colleges in all the capitals.

One of the few good news from Africa 2018" concludes Penza referring to Eritrea "is peace with Ethiopia".

Also for Don Angelo Regazzi, a Salesian missionary for many years in Ethiopia, peace with Eritrea is the great news of last year.

Addis Ababa, Don Angelo (right) with the premier Giuseppe Conte and two of the young premaiti for the results in their studies at the Don Bosco School

Especially for the youngsters that Bosco Children welcomes to offer them, instead of the road, training and work.

With the peace achieved, could the Eritrean boys look for work in Ethiopia instead of emigrate far and dangerously?

"Sure. On the contrary, I would like to say ", explains Don Angelo," that we already have young Eritreans in the Bosco Children school. Out of 150 boys and 100 in boarding school, half are Eritreans. We give them the opportunity to learn a trade, even if we know that almost everyone is waiting to leave for Europe, the United States, Canada. But we want to give them a choice. So we say that, with the new situation, it would be better to stay, then thinking of going back to Eritrea. Now there is peace. In these months we have seen open borders, trucks with goods going from Addis Ababa to Asmara, coaches bring people.

Every day we make this speech to the Eritreans. Let's say stay, because they can find their future here ".

And for whom does the future have it in refugee camps?  

"If it were for me I would eliminate the refugee camps", replies Don Angelo ( ed, before the newly approved labor law ). The refugee camp is a concentration camp where young people do not learn a job. And there's a lot of work in Ethiopia. Young people think of going abroad and do not understand that they can find much suffering there. They do not expect the clash between languages, mentality, religion, culture.

Here, in Ethiopia and Eritrea, they could live well. We see this with the hundreds of Eritrean boys we are helping. They live well, they are calm. We hope they will not leave.

 Of course the call is strong ...

"But deceptive. I have seen many send selfie with beautiful houses and bmw, letting you believe you have already conquered everything. And many people fall for it ... To stop the flow towards Italy, I also told the Premier Giuseppe Conte during his visit to our mission, we need to create jobs where they live.

One of the ways, I repeat, is to open technical schools. Take machinery, but not waste, from Italy and send them to Africa. This is how training is done.

We Salesians have founded five technical schools in Ethiopia and one in Dekhamere, in Eritrea, of which young people who had studied here are occupied, "concludes Don Angelo.   

What is to be eradicated, and we hope that this labor law out of the refugee camps will help to do so, is the trafficking of men.

Stephen Smith says in The Scramble for Europe that, by 2050, 150 million people arrive from Africa.

So migrations will not stop using force or building walls. Not even closing the ports, that the airports are already so. Or denying the landings, as in the case of migrants aboard the Italian ship "Diciotti".

Forty-one of them, among others Eritreans and Ethiopians, are now asking for damages to the Italian State, assisted by a lawyer. Perhaps a lawyer would need them even when they were in Sudan or Ethiopia and even in Libya. A professional who advised against them a trip where the last of the dangers was to stay a few days too long on an Italian boat.

To stop migrants who, like the Eritreans, do not flee the war, they need training and work, the only way to have a decent life, rather than promises.  

Sweet Marilena

@EritreaLive


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