Ethiopia, the oldest independent
country in Africa, remains committed to
offering asylum to refugees arriving on its territory from neighboring
countries. Over the past decade, Ethiopia has hosted about 1 million
refugees. Fortunately, over time most of them have been able to repatriate to
their respective countries. At the present, Ethiopia
is home to approximately 80,000 refugees, mostly from Eritrea, Somalia,
Sudan, and Kenya. More
than a quarter of the refugees, or about 23,500 individuals, are from Eritrea. Over
1,700 Eritrean refugees were registered in the first quarter of 2008.
View from Addis Ababa: Recently arrived Eritrean refugees who have relatives or can afford education have been permitted to reside outside of camps to help relieve overcrowding. Other refugees filter south on their own and live as self-supporting urban refugees. Woman in Northwestern Ethiopia: Reaching the relative safety of northwestern Ethiopia for those fleeing Eritrea takes an unnecessary economic, physical, and psychological toll on hundreds of men, women, and children every month. Refugee Camp in Shimelba: Not far from Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, Shimelba Refugee Camp houses more than 17,900 refugees. Approximately 75 percent of camp residents are young males, and sexual violence against the minority female population is a persistent problem. A Street in the Shimelba Refugee Camp: Challenges for Shimelba Camp residents include an insufficient quantity of food rations, frustration at the lack of freedom of movement, and an inability to work and support themselves and their families. Malaria is also a persistent problem. Eritrean Boys Playing in Shimelba Camp: A recent arrival explained, "I was 19 at the time of the conflict. They detained me and beat me. . . I was kept in an underground cell. . . After two months I became ill, but thankfully I recovered. We can’t go back until the government is changed."