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The report examines the precarious economic lives of refugee communities in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, and their interactions with the host community.

Addis Ababa has 22,000 registered refugees (17,000 Eritreans on the Out-of-Camp Policy and 5,000 Somalis on the Urban Assistance Programme), out of a national refugee population of 900,000. This report examines the economic lives of the refugee communities and their interactions with the host community. The research is based on qualitative research and a survey of 2,441 refugees and members of the proximate host community. We draw upon the data to consider the prospects for a sustainable urban response in the context of Ethiopia’s adoption of the new Refugee Proclamation in 2019, which appears to provide refugees with the right to work and freedom of movement.

Traders in Gofa Mebrat. Credit: A. Betts

Overall, we show that although Eritrean refugees have several significant advantages compared to Somalis, such as more education and higher levels of integration within the Ethiopian society, both refugee populations face extreme socio-economic challenges, including low incomes, high unemployment levels, poor mental and physical health indicators, and low life satisfaction, for example, when compared to the surrounding host communities. As a result, the overwhelming majority aspire to migrate onwards or access resettlement, with a significant focus on Europe and the United States. The implication is that creating sustainable socio-economic opportunities, including through new job creation, will be crucial in order to improve welfare outcomes and offer alternatives to onward migration.