Ethiopia’s Open Door Refugee Policy

As of May 2018, Ethiopia hosts the second largest refugee population in Africa. With over 920,262 registered refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from South Sudan and Somalia. This is because the Ethiopian government grants almost automatic recognition to the majority of asylum seekers from neighbouring countries.


It is one of the European Commission’s 16 ‘priority’ countries from which the Commission is trying to reduce migrant/ refugee numbers. This will be in return for various incentives like development aid and trade. This, in turn, benefits the host communities as there is an increase in funding for the development of social infrastructure. It will include schools and health centres.


With the influx of financial aid, Ethiopia has been able to make fast progress on its pledges  From the September 2016 Summit on Refugees and Migrants hosted by the United Nations General Assembly, including:

  • Introducing civil registration of refugees, including birth, marriage, divorce and death started in October 2017.
  • The implementation of the Biometric Information Management System, a countrywide refugee registration infrastructure. This records information on refugees’ education and professional skills as well as profiles of their family members.
  • Beginning the construction of $500 million worth of industrial parks, 30% of the jobs at which will be reserved for refugees.
  • Increasing the school enrolment rate of refugee children in primary schools. From 118,275 in 2016/2018 to 132,563 in 2017/2018, bringing the total elementary school enrolment rate to 72%.
  • Increasing the secondary school enrolment rate from 9% to 12%.
  • Increasing the higher education enrolment rate from 1,600 to 2,300.


Although there is still room for improvement. The Ethiopian government is proactive in addressing the remaining problems. For example, a camp system is relied on, hindering integration. This has led to regional issues with almost 85% of the South Sudanese refugees population living in camps in the Gambella Region. As of April 2017, the refugee population surpassed that of the host community. This has in turn created a hotbed for political tension. However, the Government’s decided to relocate newly arriving refugees to the neighbouring Benishangul-Gumuz region last year. It is an indication that it is working to address these ethnic and political dynamics in the region.




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