The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appreciated Ethiopia’s adoption of a new law that allows refugees a range of rights, including freedom of movement and access to labor market.
UN high commissioner for refugees Mr. Filippo Grandi made the remark on Wednesday, 13 February 2019, during his talks with President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia.
UNHCR is to strengthen partnerships with Ethiopia in response to forced displacement and for increased investment in refugee-hosting areas, he said.
President Sahle-Work on her part underscored that Ethiopian government is working closely with development partners like UNHCR to provide jobs for refugees and help them feel like home, according to the Office of the President.
Ethiopia is hosting close to one million refugees mainly from four neighboring countries -Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.
On his four-day visit to Ethiopia, Grandi praised the country’s generosity towards hosting refugees, as well as the government’s openness to new and innovative approaches to improve the lives of the more than 900,000 refugees and the communities hosting them.
The High Commissioner spent two days in Melkadida, a region bordering Somalia, which hosts over 200,000 refugees.
He saw firsthand how a US$100 million investment by the IKEA Foundation over the last seven years has transformed the semi-arid, isolated area into a thriving community.
Grandi visited projects funded by the Foundation, including an irrigation scheme where 1,000 hectares of previously barren land are now lush farms that enable refugees grow crops such as watermelon, tomatoes and corn up to three times a year.
He also visited markets supported by microfinance and other economic empowerment programmes where refugees and the local community buy and sell their crops.
The programme has been so successful that some of the crops are being exported to other regions in the country. Refugees told the High Commissioner that they are saving some of their income to improve the markets themselves.
“The host community are welcoming us, and we are welcoming them”.
“What has developed here is a unique approach to self-reliance of refugees where the government of Ethiopia has been extremely open to new approaches,” said Grandi.
“The host communities and refugees have also been remarkably open to work together in harmony. This is something we don’t normally see”.
At a meeting with community leaders in Dollo Ado, the High Commissioner and IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes heard about how the investment has had a positive impact on the entire community.
They also announced that the Foundation has decided to extend their investment in the project for at least three more years to ensure the community can sustain it independently.