Ethiopia opens vital events registration center for refugees

The Government of Ethiopia opens a center for refugees to help them access services such as the registration of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths and receive protection referrals and civil documentation.

Opened in Bambasi refugee Camp, in the western Ethiopian Region of Benishangul-Gumuz, will also serve the people from the local communities surrounding the camp, according to the press statement from UN agency for refugees. Ethiopia hosts more than 900,000 refugees and is currently working to include refugees in national systems, according to the statement.

The center is opened on Friday by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UNICEF, Vital Events Registration Agency (VERA) and the Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA). The centre, also known as a One-Stop-Shop, marks the beginning of a process that will lead to a government-owned digitalized and harmonized model for refugees assistance that will also serve local communities, according to the statement. The initiative is in line with the Global Compact on Refugees which promotes the provision of common services and infrastructure for both refugees and local communities.

Financed by the European Union’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), which is administered by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the one-stop-shop is the first of 27 such facilities to be established throughout Ethiopia to support the integration of services for refugees with national systems as enshrined in Ethiopia’s revised new refugee law that was adopted in January of this year.

Ato Amdework Yehualawork, the Head of the ARRA Zonal Office in Assosa, said “By providing services to refugees and their host communities in one centre, the One-Stop-Shops represents a good start in the ongoing drive to integrate services used by refugees and their hosts, leading to eventual inclusion of refugees into the host communities in line with the new refugee law.”

“The One-Stop-Shop and the services provided in it will facilitate the government’s out-of-camp policy which foresees a significant number of refugees living and working outside of refugee camps,” says Clementine Nkweta-Salami, the UNHCR Representative in Ethiopia. “Refugees, including those in Bambasi Camp, having obtained nationally recognised proof of registration and refugee ID cards at the One-Stop-Shop, will have the means to access basic services provided by the government throughout the country.”

“The opening of this center is important for refugee children in Ethiopia who will now realize their right to a birth certificate,” says UNICEF Representative in Ethiopia Adele Khodr. “A birth certificate is an important identity document that can protect a child from violations such as child marriage and child labour. We expect more children to have their births registered and to realize their right to a legal identity.”

The One-Stop-Shop is equipped with the latest digital registration technology together with internet connectivity to facilitate a two-way communication between persons of concern and service providers. The system is able to issue Proof of Registration documents, ID cards, and civil registration certificates immediately as soon asa request is received. It also provides refugees and local communities access to the internet to be able to seek and secure essential services.

These One-Stop-Shops are expected to speed up the issuance of legal identity documents for refugees and local communities, thus realising the fundamental rights of refugees and Ethiopian citizens to own valid identity documents, register their civil events, and access a range of complementary services.

The vital events registration system in Ethiopia was launched in October 2017. AMIF provided the funding for all the necessary supplies for vital events registration as well as capacity-building implemented through UNICEF.