Refugees in Ethiopia can now register their vital life events, including birth, death, marriage and divorce, directly with national authorities. "This is a historic first and a ground-breaking development for refugee protection in Ethiopia, not previously realized over decades," UNHCR said in a statement.
Access to civil registry offices and certificates in refugee camps
Civil registration for refugees has been made possible following an amendment to existing legislation prepared by UNHCR and the UN's Children Agency UNICEF in collaboration with the Ethiopian government. It is one of the nine pledges made at the Leaders' Summit held in New York in September 2016. Other commitments included to grant work permits to refugees, strengthen access to education, allow a significant number of refugees to reside outside of refugee camps and locally integrate long-staying refugees.
On October 27, the day of the launch of the new service, 11 refugees were issued with certificates in the capital Addis Ababa. Civil registration offices have also been established in each of the 26 refugee camps, as well as in the seven locations with a high concentration of refugees.
883,000 refugees in Ethiopia, 70,000 uncertified births
According to UNHCR, Ethiopia currently hosts more than 883,000 refugees mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. More than 70,000 refugee children born in Ethiopia over the last decade have not had their births registered "and will soon be issued with birth certificates", the UN refugee agency said. "Children born before the new law came into force can also now obtain a birth certificate retroactively," it added.
"Birth registration is an important protection tool - ensuring basic human rights, particularly in situations of displacement. It establishes a child's legal identity and can help prevent statelessness. Civil registration is also important for policy development and planning in Ethiopia's Development Agenda, in line with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). This aims to "enhance refugee self-reliance and inclusion; provide refugees with better possibilities for solutions to their plights; and ease pressure on host countries", UNHCR explained.