Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga has acknowledged on a three-day visit to Ethiopia the role of the country as a haven for refugees in the region. Switzerland has pledged CHF6 million ($6.1 million) to Ethiopia for refugee protection.
Sommaruga referred to the east African country as a “key stabiliser in the region” in recognition of the 720,000 refugees it currently hosts, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea.
Ethiopia is a priority country for Switzerland in terms of its migration policy, which involves assistance on the ground and protecting refugees in their region of origin. In September, the Swiss government decided to allocate an additional CHF19 million for aiding refugees in the Horn of Africa region with CHF6 million earmarked for Ethiopia alone.
On Sunday, Sommaruga visited the Sheder refugee camp in Jigiga in the eastern part of the country. The camp hosts around 12,300 refugees, most of whom come from Somalia.
According to the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, Ethiopia hosted 106,670 Eritreans in January 2015.
Providing a refuge to fleeing Eritreans is an important component of Swiss-Ethiopian cooperation on migration, according to the migration office.
Of the 23,765 people who applied for asylum in Switzerland in 2014, 6,923 (almost 30%) were Eritreans, by far the largest group of asylum seekers. After Germany and Sweden, Switzerland was the most preferred destination for Eritrean migrants.
Sommaruga is also set to visit a project near the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa funded by the State Secretariat for Migration that provides employment opportunities to Eritrean refugees.