Ethiopia begins civil registration for refugees

15 Nov 2017

Since 27th October, all refugees in Ethiopia have been able to register their vital life events, including birth, death, marriage and divorce, directly with national authorities.

This is an historic first and a ground-breaking development for refugee protection in Ethiopia, not previously realized over decades, which was welcomed by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Civil registration for refugees has been made possible following an amendment to existing legislation. The Ethiopian Government, UNHCR and the UN’s Children Agency (UNICEF) collaborated in the preparation of the amendment, one of the nine pledges made at the Leaders’ Summit held in New York in September 2016.

Other commitments included granting work permits to refugees, strengthening access to education, allowing a significant number of refugees to reside outside refugee camps and local integration of long-staying refugees.

At the launch, eleven refugees were issued with certificates in Addis Ababa. Civil registration offices have also been established in each of the 26 refugee camps, as well as in the seven locations with a high concentration of refugees.

More than 70,000 refugee children born in Ethiopia over the last decade have not had their births registered and will soon be issued with birth certificates. Children born before the new law came into force can also now obtain a birth certificate retroactively.

Birth registration is an important protection tool – ensuring basic human rights, particularly in situations of displacement. It establishes a child’s legal identity and can help prevent statelessness.

“By ensuring refugees are included in the national civil registration system, the Government of Ethiopia has taken a big step in enhancing the protection environment of refugees in Ethiopia,” said Clementine Nkweta Salami, the UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia.

“Previously Ethiopia’s policy was just based on caring for and hosting refugees in the camps,“ said Mr Zenynu Jamal, Deputy Director for the government’s refugee division, “But this current shift is amazing to see. It shows that our consistent commitment to neighbours fleeing conflict, human catastrophes and natural disasters will continue.”

Civil registration is also important for policy development and planning Ethiopia’s Development Agenda – in line with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). The framework aims to enhance refugee self-reliance and inclusion, provide refugees with better possibilities for solutions to their plight, and ease pressure on host countries. Ethiopia is also among the first countries to roll out CRRF. It currently hosts more than 883,000 refugees mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

Ethiopia stands #WithRefugees

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