Djibouti is one of the fastest-growing economies in the East and Horn of Africa, though it relies significantly on foreign direct investments, rents from foreign countries’ military bases, and port services. The International Monetary Fund estimated that real GDP grew by about 6.5 per cent in 2015–16[2].

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 at the Leaders’ Summit for Refugees in September 2016 to include refugees in national education programmes and health systems. The Government specifically pledged to:

  1. Adopt a new Refugee law providing access to education, legal help and the justice system for refugees.
  2. Give all refugee children access to accredited education through:
  1. Assessing and training an adequate number of refugee teachers to teach refugees;
  2. Establishing certificate equivalency for the English-language curriculum taught in Djibouti’s refugee camps and the translation of the Djiboutian curriculum into English.
  3. Convening a regional refugee education meeting for refugee education technical experts to reach agreement on certificate equivalency.

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 safeguard their fundamental rights, including access to education, employment and eventual naturalisation. This laudable and progressive law - once it is implemented through a decree - will pave the way for greater inclusion of refugees in Djiboutian society. In addition to ensuring the finalisation of the Decree aimed at implementing the Law, the CRRF roll-out in Djibouti will focus in priority on the sectors of Education and Health.

Way forward

In May, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Interior and the Government partner (ONARS), UNHCR organised a series of information and awareness-raising workshops on the CRRF and the newly promulgated National Refugee Law. The workshops were held in four key locations – in Djibouti-ville and in the field - that host refugees and asylum-seekers. Participants included key stakeholders dealing with refugees issues 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 CRRF is positive, in particular the component related to the inclusion of refugees in national development plans while increasing support to the communities that host them. There is consensus among CRRF stakeholders that the new National Refugee Law is a favourable framework and that its implementation by the Decree is an urgent next step to apply the CRRF.

UNHCR’s education specialist has recently met with key line Ministries, education partners and refugees in order to provide appropriate guidance with respect to the integration of refugees in the national education system.

Djibouti reaffirmed its commitment to support a regional approach for Somali refugees. To this end, Djibouti is an active participant in the follow-up to the March 2017 Special Summit of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), during which all eight IGAD countries agreed to pursue a comprehensive regional approach to provide protection and deliver durable solutions for Somali refugees.


As Djibouti fulfils its pledges and pursues a more comprehensive approach, 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. A joint World Bank/UNHCR mission to Djibouti in April 2017 explored the potential use of the Bank’s IDA-18 (International Development Assistance) regional sub-window for refugees and host communities, a financial facility that aims to support low-income countries that host refugees.

Key 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, many are living in urban areas with unclear statuses. The only reliable statistics are those related to registered refugee population.
  • There are also limited work opportunities 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. Complementary pathways: UNHCR asks third-country governments – in cooperation and with the support of other stakeholders, such as the private sector, civil society and diaspora organizations - to establish and expand complementary pathways for refugees living in CRRF pilot countries. These pathways may include expanded family reunification and family-based mobility; labour mobility schemes; scholarships and education programmes; and regional mobility schemes. (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 per cent.


[1] As at end 2015, source: World Bank

[2] Ibid.