LLM Thesis

Refugees’ Right to Work in Ethiopia: Prospects and Challenges

Source: Refugees’ Right to Work in Ethiopia: Prospects and Challenges

Minilik Assefa


Ethiopia’s’ Refugee Proclamation No. 1110/2019, provides that refugees will have the right to engage in gainful employment on an equal basis with the most favored foreign nationals in Ethiopia. Accordingly, and in line with international refugee law, the designation of ‘the most favored foreigners’ in the Ethiopian legal system is the underlying factor that determines the scope of refugee’s right to work in Ethiopia. Foreigners of Ethiopian Origin and Djiboutian nationals are the two most favored foreign nationals in Ethiopia regarding access to employment. It is argued that refugee’s right to engage in wage-earning employment should not extend to the privileges enjoyed by Foreigners of Ethiopian Origin due to strong legal and policy objectives that predicated the special treatment of Foreigners of Ethiopian Origin in the Ethiopian legal system as well as different practical considerations. Instead, refugees should be placed on par with ordinary foreigners concerning their right to engage in wage-earning employment. However, this will be very restrictive and only few high skilled refugees will have access to the job market. In relation to engagement in self-employment and liberal professions, refugees have an indisputable right to benefit from the preferential treatment enjoyed by Djiboutian nationals that emanates from Most Favored Nations relationships that exist between Ethiopia and Djibouti. This, with few exceptions, will enable refugees to engage in investment activities that are exclusively reserved for Ethiopian investors. The most favorable opening that will grant greater employment opportunities for numerous refugees is the Joint Projects arrangement. Joint Projects are development projects designed with the support of international donors to unrestricted job opportunities for refugees and host communities.

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