07 April 2016
|A Finnish government official plays ping pong with a refugee boy at the Refugee Community Centre in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Mulugeta W/Eyesus/Jesuit Refugee Service).|
|Allowing these initiatives to thrive requires more resources for the refugee response.|
Addis, 7 April 2016 – The Finish ambassador to Ethiopia, her team and Finnish parliament committee of finance members visited the JRS-Refugee Community Centre in Addis Ababa earlier this week. The visitors were accompanied by representatives of the Ethiopian government’s refugee agency (ARRA) and the UN refugee agency.
Visitors met with JRS staff to discuss the current refugee situation and challenges faced by refugees in the country, whose open door policy has offered asylum to 750,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, and other countries.
Among the various hardships discussed were funding cuts to services for refugees. The 2016 refugee operation in Ethiopia is only half-way funded while influxes continue. In addition to a lack of resources, harsh environmental conditions, such as the ongoing drought, and difficulties in accessing proper documents make life for refugees difficult.
Ato Ayalew Aweke, Deputy Director of ARRA, highlighted his concern for Eritrean unaccompanied minors who are known to take dangerous journeys through the desert to reach Europe. Many of these youth face imprisonment, torture or death on such passageways, but with few opportunities in the camp they continue to take risks for a better life.
The Ethiopian government and partner agencies try to prevent onward migration by supporting refugees in urban areas and offering an 'out of camp' policy. Refugees can live outside of the camps if they are sponsored to study in universities or are taken in by Ethiopian foster families. However, allowing these initiatives to thrive requires more resources for the refugee response, especially in urban areas like Addis Ababa. Urban refugees at the community centre expressed other concerns to the ambassador, such as rising living costs, poor medical services as well as restrictions to employment which all inhibit integration.
Representatives from UNHCR, JRS and ARRA later thanked the Finnish government for their continued and unwavering support for refugees while appealing for more support, especially in the urban context so that more community centres for refugees in Addis Ababa can be opened. The Finnish government confirmed their continued support and expressed the importance of improving the situation and creating more space spaces for refugees in Ethiopia.
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