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UNHCR lauds Ethiopia’s efforts in respecting refugees’ rights

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

November 20, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) - The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) – has praised Ethiopia’s methods of handling the tens of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries.

Speaking to Walta Information Center, a pro-government news agency, UNHCR Ethiopia representative J.O. Moses Okello said that Ethiopia is exerting remarkable efforts in respecting refugees’ rights and is providing its own humanitarian assistance to meet the basic needs of refugees.

The representative, applauded the efforts Ethiopia is applying for the betterment of the life of refugee, adding that “UNHCR is confident enough that refugees in Ethiopia are treated almost as citizens”.

“Ethiopia is well experienced in handling refugees” he said, adding “Ethiopia has a long time experience and culture of receiving and respecting refugees since the time it received the followers of Prophet Mohammed from Mecca and the nation has been treating all the refugees as its own citizens”.

According to the representative, having received refugees with open arms, Ethiopians shelter, protect, provide basic needs and respect their rights in accordance to the covenants of international refugees’ rights.

“Ethiopia takes the biggest share in treating the large number of refugees than the UNHCR does, and we recognize these good deeds,” he said.

The UNHCR representative also appreciated Ethiopia’s scholarship offer to refugees from various African countries covering 85 per cent of the budget while the remaining is covered by the UNHCR.

“Ethiopia offers scholarship opportunities to refugees coming from Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan, which ranks the country among the few nations in the world generous enough to refugees” he said.

In August, the Ethiopian government introduced a new out-of-camp scheme which allows Eritrean refugees residing in camps to independently live anywhere they chose across the nation, provided that they can sustain themselves financially or if they can sustain themselves with the supports of relatives.

Ethiopia currently shelters nearly 150,000 refugees 14 refugee camps. Somali, Eritrean, and Sudanese refugees make up over 95% of the total. While include some 3,000 Kenyans and others are from Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Djibouti.

According to Okello there are schools, health centers and other service institutions in each of the refugee camps.

Eritrean and Somali refugees refuse voluntary repatriation due political and security situation back home and the UNHCR believes resettlement to third country is the only and appropriate option.

During the past few years, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in cooperation with International Organization Migration (IOM) and the Ethiopian government have resettled over 6000 Eritrean refugees to a third country. Considerable number of Somalis have also benefited from the operation.

According to Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) by the end of 2010, some 3,100 Eritrean refugees are expected to be resettled to different countries.

(ST)

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