The House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) has revised a draft bill on refugees this week to help with the GoE’s refugee integration program by giving a wider access for refugees in Ethiopia ranging from business activities, to the right to possess property as well as duty-free importation.
Immediately after the endorsement, the bill attracted the attention of stakeholders with concerns regarding security and resource utilization.
Among prominent officials who welcomed the bill Fitsum Arega – who was recently appointed as the Ethiopian Ambassador to Washington DC– in a statement he posted on Facebook, said that the bill allows refugees to engage in job opportunities offered by Mega Industrial Parks as part of the agreement signed between the Ethiopian government and European Union. He said that the new legislation was part of the country’s “Jobs Compact” – a USD 500 million program which aims to create 100,000 jobs – 30 percent of which will be allocated to refugees.
“This helps refugees & supports Ethiopia’s industrialization,” said Arega on his time line.
The Legal, Justice and Democratic Affairs Standing Committee Chairperson, Fozia Amin told members of the House that the objective of the bill is to fill the legal gaps that were not incorporated in the previous proclamations passed by Ethiopia, which currently hosts more than 900,000 refugees.
It was, therefore, found necessary to facilitate a legal framework in which refuges and citizens could engage in development, and in keeping with the current international, regional and local situations, she explained.
“Among other things, the bill provides structure that enables legal refugees to engage in inclusive development programs in the localities they reside, based on the country’s land lease and finance system,” Fozia stated.
According to her, the bill will help to enhance the country’s visibility and acceptance internationally, and provides the groundwork for further promotion of the livelihoods of refugees and host communities.
Fozia further noted that it will cement the current spirit of friendliness among neighboring countries in the sub-region, strengthen people to people relations, and improve Ethiopia’s administration of refugees and service delivery.
The bill was passed by a majority vote with 3 against and one abstention.