Ethiopia opens new centre to help refugees access vital services

Ethiopia has opened a new centre to help refugees access vital services such as registering civil events including births and marriages.

The centre, which was officially opened by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) together with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) and the Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) on 7 June, will be the first centre to serve refugees in the Bambasi refugee camp in western Ethiopia as well as the local communities. Financed by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), similar centres will also be established in the remaining 26 refugee camps across the country to help support the integration of refugees.

The centre, also known as a ‘One-Stop-Shop’, will support refugees and the local community to file and document their civil matters and obtain important identity documentation in order to access basic services provided by the government throughout the country. More than 70,000 refugees born in Ethiopia will also have the chance to obtain their birth certificates.

UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia, Clementine Nkweta-Salami said, “The One-Stop-Shop and the services provided in it will facilitate the government’s out-of-camp policy which foresees a significant number of refugees living and working outside of refugee camps.”

In recent years, Ethiopia has granted more rights to refugees to help improve their lives and in turn, help curb migration to Europe. In January 2019, Ethiopia passed a new law giving almost 1 million refugees the right to live and work outside the camps.

UNICEF applauded the initiative. “The opening of this centre is important for refugee children in Ethiopia who will now realise their right to a birth certificate. A birth certificate is an important identity document that can protect a child from violations such as child marriage and child labour,” said Adele Khodr, UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia.

Explaining how such centres would accelerate the integration of refugees within their host communities, the Head of the ARRA Zonal Office in Assosa, Ato Amdework Yehualawork said:  “By providing services to refugees and their host communities in one centre, the One-Stop-Shops represents a good start in the ongoing drive to integrate services used by refugees and their hosts, leading to eventual inclusion of refugees into the host communities in line with the new refugee law.”

Equipped with the up-to-date digital technology, the centre will be able to issue refugee identity documents and other civil registration certificates in a very short period of time. It will also provide refugees and the local community with access to internet services. The centre is part of the vital events registration programme which was launched in October 2017. 

Hosting more than 900,000 refugees, Ethiopia is committed to the Global Compact on Refugees which promotes refugee self-reliance and access to services for both refugees and local communities.

TMP – 19/06/2019

Photo credit: ARRA

Photo caption: Refugee receiving his civil registration certificate during the launch ceremony of the vital event registration programme for refugees which was launched in 2017.