The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that Ethiopia has become the largest refugee hosting country over taking Kenya.
According to the organization, there were currently 629,718 refugees as of the end of this July.
According to the UNHCR, the main reason behind the increasing numbers is the conflict in South Sudan which sent 188,000 refugees into Ethiopia since the beginning of 2014. There are at present 247,000 South Sudanese refugees in the country, making them the largest refugee population here.
At a press conference held at the UNECA on Wednesday, July 20th, Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated that Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Yemen host nearly a million Somali refugees.
“We wanted to announce our solidarity with these countries for a simple reason; we are not able to support them as much as we believe necessary and as much as it is fair for the generosity they have always shown. Unfortunately we have not yet gotten all the funding that will be necessary to do everything we can see that we should be doing to support these countries,” Guterres stated.
He also stated that there are a few issues that need to be taken into consideration; local communities share their resources with the refugees and there is environmental degradation in several areas.
“The international community needs to do more; we need to do more to support local communities, rehabilitating the environment that has been impacted by the presence of the refugees. On the other hand, independent to the refugee situation, the Somali crisis has an impact on the security of these countries which of course is not UNHCR’s responsibility, rather, I think it is the international communities’ responsibility,” Guterres also stated.
He also stated that all of UNHCR’s African operations have been severely underfunded and this is true not only for UNHCR but also for a majority of humanitarian organizations operating on the continent.
Representatives of the different refugee host countries that were present at the press conference called on the international community to support the capacity of the Somali Government to create peace, security, law and order, social and economic progress and sustainability in Somalia and address humanitarian imperatives including assuring food security for Somalia and basic services and amenities. This, participants said, will be the way for Somali refugees to return to their homeland.
“It is known that there are a significant number of refugees in Ethiopia, which creates pressure on the country. Our main policy regarding refugees is that they need to be able to integrate with local communities; they can’t always live as refugees, they will go back to their country at some point. For Ethiopia, helping refugees is not a choice but a duty,” stated Ambassador Negash Kibret, Director General for International Organizations, who was present at the press conference representing Dr Tedros Adhanom, Ethiopian Foreign Minister.
Ambassador Negash further stated that Ethiopia benefits from helping refugees as well as assisting neighboring countries with security issues. “If there is no peace in neighboring countries, it affects Ethiopia as we are all somewhat integrated. We want to have a stronger economic integration with these countries; if we want to have a sustainable economic development, there needs to be peace and security, if we want to have peace and security, there needs to be development. One cannot be without the other,” he said.