Refoulement: The government did not routinely grant refugee or asylum status to groups other than southern Somalis and--beginning in 2015--Yemenis. A backlog in asylum status determinations put individuals waiting for their screening at risk of expulsion to countries where they might be threatened. After the 2014 attack on La Chaumiere Restaurant by suicide bombers from Somalia, authorities closed the border with Somalia to refugees and stopped new registration and refugee status determination processes. Although the border remained officially closed during 2015, UNHCR reported the government allowed new arrivals into the country. The government also resumed the refugee status determination process in 2015, hosting several sessions of the NEC each month thereafter.
With the government focusing on communal and regional elections and working on implementing decrees for the new refugee law, the NEC did not meet during the year.
The government also began a partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) during the year to vet migrants for indicators of trafficking.
In late October the minister of health signed a convention with the IOM to incorporate migrants into the national health system.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Asylum seekers from southern Somalia and Yemen were, prima facie, considered eligible for asylum or refugee status. All other asylum claims must be reviewed by the NEC, which falls under the Ministry of Interior and consists of staff from ONARS and several ministries; UNHCR participates as an observer.
According to UNHCR the country hosted more than 27,750 refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from south and central Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. In two refugee camps in the southern region of Ali Sabieh, the country hosted more than 20,500 refugees and asylum seekers. An additional estimated 4,800 refugees from Ethiopia, Yemen, Somalia, and other countries lived in urban areas, primarily in Djibouti City. Due to Ethiopia’s instability in late 2016, Djibouti permitted more than 7,000 Ethiopians, particularly those from the Oromia, to register as asylum seekers.
In the past most new Somali refugees arrived at the Ali Addeh camp, which reached maximum capacity several years ago. In 2012 UNHCR and ONARS reopened a second camp at Holl-Holl to reduce congestion. In January, UNHCR and ONARS completed a validation census of refugees in camps and in Djibouti City and identified those who arrived after 2009 for voluntary relocation to the new camp.
The country also continued to host refugees fleeing violence in Yemen. ONARS and UNHCR registered approximately 6,000 refugees from Yemen, at least 2,800 of whom lived in a refugee camp in the northern region of Obock.
Due to the unresolved conflict begun in 2008 between Djibouti and Eritrea and Eritrea’s mandatory national service program, which includes military service, the government considered Eritrean detainees as deserters from the Eritrean military rather than refugees.
During the year the government continued to facilitate resettlement of 266 Eritreans from who had been placed in the Ali Addeh refugee camp.
Employment: Scarce resources and employment opportunities limited local integration of refugees. Under the new refugee law, documented refugees are allowed to work without a work permit in contrast to previous years, and many (especially women) did so in jobs such as house cleaning, babysitting, or construction. The law provides little recourse to challenge working conditions or seek fair payment for labor.
Access to Basic Services: The Ali Addeh camp was overcrowded, and basic services such as potable water were inadequate. The Holl-Holl camp was not overcrowded and had better access to potable water than the Ali Addeh camp. The government continued to issue birth certificates to children born in the Ali Addeh and Holl-Holl refugee camps.
The Markazi camp provided Yemeni refugees with basic services such as water, food, shelter, and medical services. The government issued birth certificates to children born in the Markazi refugee camp. ONARS and UNHCR also began issuing identification cards to Yemeni refugees.
For the first time, for the 2017-18 academic year, the government provided a new Ministry of Education-accredited English curriculum for first grade refugee youth. Previously UNHCR provided refugees in the Ali Addeh and Holl-Holl refugee camps with a Kenya-adapted curriculum taught in English and French that was not recognized by Kenyan and Djiboutian authorities. On August 28, the minister of education and a UNHCR representative signed a memorandum of understanding on refugee education.
Refugees in the Markazi camp had access to instruction based on a Yemeni and Saudi curriculum taught in Arabic.
Durable Solutions: In conjunction with the IOM, the government continued to support vocational training for young refugees. These training programs resulted in a small number of refugees finding local employment.
Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to a limited number of individuals who may not qualify as refugees. Authorities often jailed irregular migrants identified as economic migrants attempting to transit the country to enter Yemen and returned them to their countries of origin. The government worked with the IOM to provide adequate health services to these migrants while they awaited deportation. The IOM and the minister of health signed a convention in late October to have three doctors and three nurses stationed across the country to support migrants and citizens. The Coast Guard also agreed to host a migrant shelter in Khor Angar in the North.