IGAD Refugee Policy Instrumental in Galvanizing Int’l Support: UNHCR Senior Protection Coordinator

Addis Ababa, The newly validated Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Refugee Protection and Management Policy is instrumental in galvanizing international support towards easing the pressure faced by refugees in the region, a UNHCR senior protection coordinator said.

Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) member states convened a meeting to validate the IGAD Policy Framework on Protection of refugees last week.

The policy framework is expected to be presented to the ministers in charge of refugee affairs and heads of state at the 2023 Annual Stocktake for endorsement, it was learned.

Speaking to ENA, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Senior Protection Coordinator Senay Terefe said that the policy aims to ensure harmonized policies in terms of access to territorial asylum to refugees.

The refugee protection and management policy is also primarily ensuring collective approach among the IGAD member states towards a crisis that has faced the region.

According to the coordinator, the policy has components which look at consolidating an inclusive policy approach towards refugees, health, education and communication as well as social sectors.

Most importantly, the new policy seeks to mobilize and galvanize international support for a significant number of refugees in the region.

The alarming growing number of refugees has been creating pressure in many ways across the IGAD region.

The IGAD region is home to millions of forcibly displaced individuals due to complex interlinked factors compelling people to move.

The UN Refugee Agency revealed that the region hosted over 5 million registered refugees and asylum seekers as of August 2023. Furthermore, there were over 13.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region as of July 2023.

The coordinator stated that the number of refugees in the IGAD region is the largest even in Africa.

Particularly, IGAD has been witnessing that refugee numbers are increasing at alarming points following the ongoing Sudan’s crisis.

“I think 5 million refugees is a very large number. I think it is the largest on the continent. We have seen that refugees are feeling destitute without basic survival means. This is also creating pressure in refugees hosting areas which are usually economically underserved in the countries where people receive them,” Senay noted.

He added that these areas where the refugees have been sheltered are poorer than other parts of the country, and that means the pressure is at the sub-national level as well as the national level.

Many argue that the magnitude and complex nature of the displacement situation is one of the most pressing challenges in the east African region.

Therefore, the coordinator said IGAD needs to take collective action through its political mandate to address the alarming refugee trend in the region.

UNHCR is working with governments in the IGAD region to ensure that they receive the lifesaving supplies, address the humanitarian funding gap and the technical challenges, Senay stated.

However, long term solutions are necessitated in partnership with government, private sector and multisectoral stakeholders.

Speaking on Ethiopia’s role in which the country is hosting close to one million refugees, the coordinator pointed out that it has also piloted a number of initiatives and solutions for refugees.

“Ethiopia is a key country for the stability of the IGAD region. Ethiopia hosts close to one million refugees. The country has also piloted a number of initiatives and solutions notably through the global refugee forum commitments it has made in giving access to livelihood opportunities to refugees, the initiative around industrial parks where refugees are allowed enable to become self-reliant.”

For him, in many ways Ethiopia offers a lot of examples for the region and can serve as a better example in exchanging good practices for other IGAD member states in terms of protection and solutions for refugees.

Source: Ethiopian News Agency