Djibouti is one of the fastest-growing economies in the East and Horn of Africa, though it relies significantly on foreign financing and direct investments, rents from foreign countries’ military bases, and port services. The International Monetary Fund estimated that real GDP grew by about 6.5% in 2015-2016.

Large-scale investment and new infrastructure projects underway provide concrete opportunities to apply the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) in areas where both refugees and host communities live, leading to economic growth and development in these areas, for the benefit of both populations.

Towards a more comprehensive refugee response

In a promising step towards greater inclusion of refugees in local communities, the Government committed to include refugees in national education programmes and health systems at the Leaders’ Summit for Refugees in September 2016. The Government specifically pledged to:

1. Adopt a new Refugee law providing access to education, legal help and to the justice system for refugees.

2. Give all refugee children access to accredited education through:

  • Training an adequate number of refugee teachers to teach refugees;
  • Establishing certificate equivalency for the English-language curriculum taught in Djibouti’s refugee camps and the translation of the Djiboutian curriculum into English.
  • Convening a regional refugee education meeting for refugee education technical experts to reach agreement on certificate equivalency.

3. Give all refugee access to the national health system.

Strategic roll-out of the CRRF

Fulfilling its first Leaders’ Summit pledge, in January 2017 the President promulgated a new refugee law aimed at strengthening the protection of refugees and safeguarding their fundamental rights, including access to education, employment and eventual naturalisation. This laudable and progressive law will pave the way for greater inclusion of refugees in Djiboutian society.

The decrees to implement the law are finalised for submission to the Cabinet of Ministers, which will be chaired by the Head of State in mid- December 2017. In addition to ensuring the finalisation of the Decree, the CRRF roll-out in Djibouti focuses on the priority sectors of Education, Health, Water and Livelihoods.

Key partnerships

As Djibouti fulfils its pledges and pursues a more comprehensive approach to refugee situations, UNHCR and its partners are supporting the Government to focus on refugee management policies that enhance the self-reliance of refugees while also responding to the development needs of the communities that host them.

The Ministries of Education and of Health, in partnership with UNHCR, the World Bank, donors and diplomatic missions in Djibouti, are developing concrete measures to achieve these aims. Djibouti is expected to benefit from the World Bank’s IDA-18 regional sub-window for refugees and host communities, a part-loan, part-grant financial facility that aims to support low-income countries that host refugees.

Djibouti is also one of the first countries where refugees are fully included in the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF 2018-2022), ensuring that the Government’s and the UN’s development work also benefits refugees. UNHCR in Djibouti has started developing a close collaboration with the Djiboutian Chamber of Commerce, in order to advocate for the private sector’s inclusion of refugees in the workforce, as soon as refugees are legally allowed to seek employment in the country.

Latest updates

In May 2017, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and the Office National d’Assistance aux Réfugiés et Sinistrés, ONARS, the government body responsible for refugees and asylum-seekers, UNHCR organised a series of information and awareness-raising workshops on the CRRF and the new National Refugee Law. The workshops were held in four key locations in Djibouti-ville and in the field which host refugees and asylum-seekers.

Participants included key stakeholders dealing with refugee matters, as well as development partners, namely line ministries, national and local authorities, UN colleagues, NGO partners, the World Bank, donors, IGAD Representatives, the private sector, civil society and refugees. The response to the CRRF is positive, in particular regarding the inclusion of refugees in national development plans while increasing support to the communities that host them.

At the end of August 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between UNHCR and the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MENFOP) on the inclusion of refugees in the national education system. This milestone development ensures that quality education will be provided to refugee children in Djibouti: by the start of the new school year in September 2017, refugee students from grade one were being taught the Djiboutian curriculum translated in English.

Since October 2017, the Ministry of Health and UNHCR-Djibouti have collaborated on a Memorandum of Understanding which would ensure the inclusion of refugees in Djibouti in the national health system. The objective is to avoid a parallel system in respect of the medical care for refugees and host communities.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), whose Headquarters are in Djibouti, is leading the development of comprehensive responses for Somali refugees.  Djibouti is an active participant in the follow-up to the March 2017 Special Summit of the IGAD Assembly of Heads, during which all eight IGAD countries agreed to pursue a comprehensive regional approach to provide protection and deliver durable solutions for Somali refugees. To this end, the CRRF roadmap – which is currently under development – will address the objectives of the Nairobi Declaration signed by the heads of state of IGAD.

Current challenges

  • With less than 1,000km² of arable land and very little annual rainfall, Djibouti has a chronic food deficit and is wholly dependent on imports to meet its food needs. It is highly sensitive to external shocks such as spikes in food and fuel prices and natural disasters such as floods and droughts.
  • With the last population census having been undertaken in 2009, the majority of the Djiboutian population are living in urban areas, some of whom have unclear documentation statuses. The only reliable statistics are those related to registered refugee population.
  • Work opportunities are limited in the country. Djibouti’s continued hospitality towards refugees puts a strain on domestic resources.

Operational and funding needs to deliver on a comprehensive response

  1. Support for implementation of the new refugee law by decree, including financial support by international financial institutions, and development capacity-building of relevant sections in the Government.
  2. Resettlement: The projected global resettlement needs for 2017 for refugees in Djibouti are 7,896 persons (with a target of 500 persons).
  3. Support for establishment of complementary pathways: third-country governments – in cooperation and with the support of other stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society and diaspora organizations – are encouraged to establish and expand complementary pathways for refugees living in CRRF roll-out countries. These pathways may include expanded family reunification and family-based mobility; labour and regional mobility schemes; scholarships and education programmes. (Note: implementation of such pathways necessitates certain facilitative administrative measures, as well as protection safeguards. UNHCR may support States with technical advice in these areas). More specifically, UNHCR calls on Member States to provide scholarship and educational opportunities for Yemeni refugees (e.g., Saudi Arabia’s Leaders’ Summit commitment to permit 3,880 Yemenis to study at Saudi universities in 2016-2017). UNHCR can provide more information on the needs relating to complementary pathways.
  4. Health and education programmes for refugees and host communities: Support to the Government for the inclusion of host communities in the planning and programming of refugee activities across the country. In a similar vein, financial support and capacity-building for the Government are necessary to ensure refugees are included in health and education programmes.
  5. Support towards broad-based and sustainable partnerships for operational delivery. This includes greater support to line ministries, local authorities and host populations from donors in-country and from Member States.
  6. Donors engaged in development infrastructure in Djibouti should consider refugee-hosting areas as priority areas for the building of development infrastructure such as roads and pipelines.
  7. Funding: the Operating Plan for the refugee response in 2017 is US$33.8 million. This plan is currently funded at 28%.