OVERVIEW of Ethiopia | Humanitarian situation | Persecuted groups | Country of asylum | Media sources | Ethiopians in Canada – Settlement experiences | Cultural profiles

Overview of Ethiopia

Capital: Addis Ababa
Area: 1,127,127 km²
Population: 74,777,981 (2006 estimate)
Language(s): Amharic, Tigrinya, Oromigna, Guaragigna, Somali, Arabic, other local languages, English
Religion(s): Muslim – 45%-50%, Ethiopian Orthodox – 35%-40%, animist – 12%, others – 3%-8%
Ethnic Group(s): Oromo – 40%, Amhara and Tigre – 32%, Sidamo – 9%, Shankella – 6%, Somali – 6%, Afar – 4%, Gurage – 2%, others – 1% [accessed March 14, 2018].

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Humanitarian situation

“Ethiopia made little progress in 2017 on much-needed human rights reforms. Instead, it used a prolonged state of emergency, security force abuses, and repressive laws to continue suppressing basic rights and freedoms.

The 10-month state of emergency, first declared in October 2016, brought mass arrests, mistreatment in detention, and unreasonable limitations on freedom of assembly, expression and association. While abusive and overly broad, the state of emergency gave the government a period of relative calm that it could have used to address grievances raised repeatedly by protesters.

However, the government did not address the human rights concerns that protesters raised, including the closing of political space, brutality of security forces and forced displacement. Instead, authorities in late 2016 and 2017 announced: anti- corruption reforms; cabinet reshuffles; a dialogue with what was left of opposition political parties; youth job creation; and commitments to entrench “good governance.”

Ethiopia continues to have a closed political space. The ruling coalition has 100 percent of federal and regional parliamentary seats. Broad restrictions on civil society and independent media, decimation of independent political parties, and harassment and arbitrary detention of those who do not actively support the government, severely limit space for dissenting voices.

Despite repeated promises to investigate abuses, the government has not credibly done so, underscoring the need for international investigations. The government-affiliated Human Rights Commission is not sufficiently independent and its investigations consistently lack credibility.” See, World Report 2018 Human Rights Watch [accessed March 14, 2018].

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Persecuted groups

Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking of the following Persons

  • Women
  • Children
  • National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

See, United States Department of State, 2015 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Ethiopia, 13 April 2016, available at: [accessed 15 March 2018].

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Country of asylum


Challenges for refugees seeking asylum in Kenya pertaining to their documentation, status and their rights have arisen largely due to the ambiguity of policies in implementing the Refugee Act. Furthermore, distorted perceptions and deep-rooted suspicions on the part of the police have contributed to the prevailing belief that refugees should be confined in camps and difficulty in understanding their desire to reside permanently in Nairobi. It is also common for police officers to consider refugees as criminals, with Somalis frequently suspected of being linked with terrorist organizations. The unfamiliarity of some officers with refugee documentation has led them to regard refugees with suspicion and question the validity of their documentation.

Refugees from Ethiopia make up the second largest nationality of asylum seekers residing in Nairobi. Ethiopian refugees living in Kenya are primarily Oromo and Amhara living in Eastleigh, and a smaller number of Anuak living in Ruiru. Based on reports from those living in Eastleigh, harassment and threats by police are commonplace whether or not one carries proper documentation. Refugees also reported instances of abuse, extortion, arbitrary arrest and charge with ‘intent to commit a crime’ or ‘unlawful presence’. Arrests were for the most part, made with the aim of extorting money from detainees who could be released upon payment. Ethiopian Anuak refugees reported that because of their resemblance to the Sudanese, they faced persistent threats to their safety imposed by robbery and criminal violence. Oromo refugees living in Nairobi similarly faced insecurity, although the cause was mainly based on a fear of being abducted, forcibly repatriated and killed by Ethiopian officials present in Eastleigh.

South Africa

South Africa is known for its largely urban-based refugee population. Access to basic services is generally provided in the same way as it is to South Africans, rather than being refugee specific. However South Africa faces a unique situation as a country of asylum. Misperceptions concerning the number of immigrants and refugees entering South Africa, and the assumption that they will compete with locals for scarce resources, has generated fear and hostility towards foreigners. These xenophobic attitudes have been the basis for violent attacks and threats of violence towards many refugees living in South Africa.

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Media sources

Ireland: Refugee Documentation Centre, The Researcher, October 2016, October 2016, Volume 11 Issue 2, available at: [accessed 14 March 2018].

United Kingdom: Home Office, Country of Origin Information Report – Ethiopia, 18 January 2008, available at: [accessed 14 March 2018].

Amnesty International: Ethiopia 2017/2018 report, available at: [accessed March 15, 2018].

Dutch Council for Refugees, Country of Origin Information Report Ethiopia, 18 May 2016, available at: [accessed 15 March 2018].

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Ethiopians in Canada – Settlement experiences

Ethiopian Organizations & Associations

Disclaimer: RSTP is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse these organizations. Their activities are not necessarily those of RSTP.

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Cultural profiles

See, [accessed March 14, 2018].

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