Finding Solutions for Refugees in Ethiopia: A Shared Goal for Both Countries

As the world marks World Refugee Day on June 20, the U.S. Embassy renews its partnership with the Government of Ethiopia to find solutions for refugees residing in Africa’s second most populous country.  Since October 2023, our countries have partnered to welcome over 2,600 refugees to the United States to re-start their lives, and we are working with Ethiopia to receive 2,400 more.  World Refugee Day commemorates the resilience and courage of millions of refugees forced to flee violence and oppression to seek a better life for themselves and their families.  We remember and honor those lives lost in search of safety.  World Refugee Day is also about celebration.  We celebrate the life of each refugee who found protection and shelter and could begin a new life with dignity and safety.  We celebrate the diversity and gifts that refugees have brought to communities around the world including economic growth, new perspectives, cultural and culinary contributions, and so much more.

But challenges remain.  UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in its annual Global Trends report announced the number of people displaced by war, persecution, violence, and human rights violations globally exceeded 117 million, the largest number recorded in modern history.  Of this number, nearly 45 million people are refugees and asylum seekers, meaning they crossed an international border seeking protection. These numbers are expected to increase as war, deadly conflicts, and climate disasters continue to displace the most vulnerable around the world.  World Refugee Day therefore is an occasion for the United States and Ethiopia to ask, “How can we address these challenges more effectively?”

The United States and Ethiopia: Humanitarian Leadership in Refugee Assistance and Resettlement

World Refugee Day represents a unique opportunity to elevate humanitarian leadership, encourage others to protect the most vulnerable in our society, engage refugees directly, and support communities that host refugees in all parts of the world.  Ethiopia has one of the largest refugee populations in Africa, hosting more than one million people from countries around the region.  In Ethiopia, over a million men, women, and children have been displaced from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and other countries—many for years—with little hope for a solution.

The ongoing fighting in Sudan has upended the lives of Sudanese people and refugees from other conflicts who had previously sought shelter within Sudan, triggering massive movements of people, including more than 50,000 who have sought asylum or protection in Ethiopia since April 2023.  Many refugees who were residing in Sudan were forced to flee again to find protection in Ethiopia and other countries.  In 2023, the U.S. Government, through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), provided nearly $140 million dollars in humanitarian assistance for refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and conflict victims in Ethiopia. 

We thank the Government of Ethiopia’s Refugees and Returnees Service for their support of refugees and engagement with the UN and other partners in preparing to implement Ethiopia’s ambitious pledges made during the 2023 Global Refugee Forum, including steps for greater refugee inclusion and durable solutions for refugee populations.  Today, we renew our support to refugees and the organizations, donors, and partners who have stepped up to provide these vulnerable populations with life-saving care, services, and assistance. 

Our assistance would not be possible without the partnership of UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and other UN and international organization partners and non-governmental organizations delivering support to individuals in need throughout Ethiopia. We coordinate with the World Bank and UN partners to strengthen refugee inclusion in Ethiopia because when refugees are allowed to resettle, work, or start businesses, they contribute to the economy and strengthen host communities. 

In Ethiopia, through USAID support to the UN World Food Program, generous U.S. taxpayers have provided $80 million dollars worth of food assistance in Fiscal Year 2023 to support refugees, helping them to survive, feed their families, and regain stability and dignity.

The United States has welcomed more than 3 million refugees for permanent resettlement since 1980.  Last year, we launched Welcome Corps to enable Americans to sponsor refugees arriving through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and directly support refugee resettlement.  This year, President Biden signed the Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2024 with the plan to welcome 125,000 refugees to the United States from around the world, a level not achieved in three decades.  The United States has resettled more than 2,600 refugees living in Ethiopia since October 2023.  We could not have done this without the support of the Government of Ethiopia, UNHCR, IOM, and many other partners.

The Government of Ethiopia’s support has allowed thousands of refugees to start new lives in the United States, and we look forward to the approval of exit permits for 2,400 more this summer. Two months ago, I joined Director General Teyiba Hassen of Ethiopia’s Refugee Service to wish hundreds of refugees farewell and good luck as they boarded a charter flight to the United States – one of the high points of my tenure here as ambassador.

Challenges and the Road Ahead

No single country can provide solutions for millions of displaced people on its own.  This is a global phenomenon that requires a coordinated response, and we must do all we can to protect the most vulnerable.  Durable solutions, which include efforts to integrate refugees into the communities in which they live, as well as providing opportunities for resettlement to third countries, are key to addressing our shared global challenge of displacement. 

U.S. Embassy Addis Ababa is committed to supporting inclusive solutions for refugees and other displaced persons.  The United States is proud to be the largest single provider of humanitarian assistance worldwide and leads the effort on third-country refugee resettlement.  Humanitarian funds provide millions of refugees and internally displaced persons with lifesaving assistance. Given the urgency of their situations, we ask much from our partners and will continue to do so as we seek Government of Ethiopia approval for additional exit permits.

In my travels around Ethiopia, I have had the opportunity to meet refugees who fled violence and persecution in their countries.  Refugees face challenges in Ethiopia, including addressing the significant trauma experienced while fleeing conflict, food insecurity, lack of livelihood opportunities, access to safe water, healthcare, and educational opportunities.  We are working with our partners to support access to asylum and refugee registration, promote refugee integration into national systems and development plans, and improve access to sustainable employment to increase self-reliance.  Welcoming refugees at home and supporting refugees in other countries, such as Ethiopia, is who we are as Americans— a nation founded by those fleeing religious persecution.  Together, we can create a more hopeful and brighter future — one that embodies our highest values.  I am proud to stand with Ethiopia as we partner to care for refugees in Ethiopia and help resettle 2,400 more refugees in the United States to start new lives. Let us together show solidarity #WithRefugees.

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