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How to apply for asylum in Ethiopia

You can apply for asylum in Ethiopia when you are in Ethiopia or at a port of entry to Ethiopia. You can seek asylum at the closest police station or at any office of the Refugees and Returnees Service (RSS) in Ethiopia. You want to claim asylum within 30 days that you entered Ethiopia.

The Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) is the principal government counterpart to UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) in Ethiopia for refugee protection. The head office of RSS in Addis Ababa. RSS has branch offices in Gambella, Semera, Assosa, Jigjiga, Melkadida and Dollo Ado, Alem-Wach, Moyale, and Mizan.

Most websites linked in this article are in English or Amharic. If you need, use Google Translate, Tarjimly, or any other translation app.

Asylum process in Ethiopia

Any person who is at the border or any other entry point or within Ethiopia, whether he has entered the country lawfully or illegally, and wishes to remain within the country as a refugee, must apply to the nearest RSS office or branch office; or a police station within thirty days.

If the late submission is due to valid grounds, RSS officers may accept applications made after the deadline if the applicant requests it.

The police station that receives the application must submit it to the Refugees and Returnees Service as quickly as feasible.

If you are unable to file your application for refugee status owing to circumstances beyond your control, you may do so through another individual.

An application for refugee status is presumed to have been lodged on behalf of all members of the applicant’s family, unless individual members of the family choose to submit separate applications on their own behalf.

An alone or separated child may apply for refugee status either independently or through his guardian.

You need to complete the applicable forms by RSS and certify the accuracy of your statements.

If an asylum seeker withdraws or abandons his claim, RSS may halt the processing of his application.

No criminal charges or fines shall be imposed against a person who has applied for or is going to apply for refugee status as a result of his illegal entry and residence in the country.

Asylum decision

After establishing that the criteria are met, the Refugees and Returnees Service agency shall study and decide on the application provided to it within six months of registering the application.

In making asylum decisions, the Refugees and Returnees Service must:

ensuring that the applicant is given necessary information in a language she understands, particularly about the procedures for determining refugee status and the rights and obligations of refugees and asylum seekers;

ensuring that the applicant has adequate time to establish his argument;

ensure the presence of a qualified interpreter at all stages of the hearing, taking into account the applicant’s desire for a certain sex interpreter;

ensure that the person conducting the refugee status determination interview has adequate knowledge of Ethiopian and international refugee laws; that this person is competent to take into account the specific circumstances of asylum-seekers; and that this person is chosen with due regard for the applicant’s preference to be interviewed by a member of a specific sex;

When examining and deciding on a minor’s application for refugee status, the best interests of the child must come first.

Invite the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to attend as an observer.

RSS shall notify the individual concerned in writing of its decision and the reasons for it; any asylum-seeker who is aggrieved by a negative decision may appeal in writing to the Appeal Hearing Council within sixty days after being notified of such a decision.

The Appeal Hearing Council may hear an appeal submitted after the sixty-day period if the appellant has sufficient cause for doing so.

Can asylum seekers and refugees work in Ethiopia?

Yes. Recognized refugees and asylum-seekers shall have the right to engage in wage-earning employment in the same circumstance as the most favorable treatment accorded to foreign nationals pursuant to relevant laws.


Sources: Ethiopian Legal Brief – Refugees Proclamation no. 1110-2019

The cover image is somewhere in Ethiopia. Photo by Sammy Wong on Unsplash