Justice Needs and Satisfaction of Refugees in Ethiopia

Access to justice is key to the protection and empowerment of refugees. Too often, however, governments and development organisations lack the knowledge and data to effectively support the justice needs of refugees and their host communities. To identify their legal problems in Ethiopia and how to design effective justice services in response, UNHCR asked HiiL to conduct a Justice Needs and Satisfaction (JNS) Survey tailored to the day-to-day justice experiences of refugees and the communities that host them.

Partner(s)

UNHCR
The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Government of Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs.

Year

2021

Country

Ethiopia

Person in charge

Dr. Rodrigo Nunez

Access to justice is key to the protection and empowerment of refugees. Too often, however, governments and development organisations lack the knowledge and data to effectively support the justice needs of refugees and their host communities. To identify their legal problems in Ethiopia and how to design effective justice services in response, UNHCR asked HiiL to conduct a Justice Needs and Satisfaction (JNS) Survey tailored to the day-to-day justice experiences of refugees and the communities that host them. 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that roughly 800,000 refugees currently live in Ethiopia, making it home to the second largest refugee population in Africa. 

In consultation with UNHCR, HiiL coordinated a research team to visit refugee camps and host communities in Ethiopia. The report contained in this project details the effort, findings, and recommendations. It reflects interviews conducted by HiiL in seven refugee camps and their surrounding communities across two regions (Tigray and Somali) along the Eritrean and Somali borders. More than 2,000 people were interviewed for the study including 800 residents of host communities living around the camps. 

Respondents were asked about the legal problems they experience, what impact such problems have, if they can be satisfactorily resolved, and what the refugees and their host communities would need to help resolve or prevent justice-related problems. 

Findings include:

  • The three most prevalent legal problems facing refugees and their host communities include crime, gender-based violence, and land disputes. Recommendation: Ethiopia can prioritize these problems as part of their broader national justice strategy and programming.
  • From a socio-economic inclusion perspective, safety and security – along with access to housing, land, and documentation – emerge as top justice priorities for refugees and their host communities.
  • Refugees are four times less likely than Ethiopians from the general population to benefit from interventions of Ethiopia’s courts system.
  • In terms of legal advice, refugees express preference for advice that explains how dispute resolution procedures operate, as well as psychological support and understanding their rights and duties. 
  • Simple measures could be taken to deter criminal activity. This could include, for example, installing street lights in remote communities and camps and initiating trust-building programmes to promote stronger connections and collaboration between the Shurta (refugee volunteers who provide safety within and around the camps) and the police.

The Government of Ethiopia seeks to include refugees and their host communities in its national development strategy. The goal is to improve socio-economic conditions and public service delivery for both communities, and with support from international donors and development partners committed to integrating refugees and host communities.

“Where there is better access to justice, there will be development. And if there is development, then everybody benefits including the government, the economy, as well as our society.”

This JNS report is the first of several studies HiiL will conduct across Africa and in partnership with UNHCR. The next JNS survey will examine access to justice for refugees and internally displaced persons in Burkina Faso.

Justice and Needs Satisfaction of Refugees in Ethiopia and its report is carried out in partnership with UNHCR, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Ethiopia, and Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs.

 

Project led by:

Dr. Rodriguo Nunez, Dr. Jelmer Brouwer and Dr. Gijs Verbossen.