Operation: Opération: Eritrea



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Key Figures

2020 year-end results
250 advocacy materials were distributed to Government offices
3 thermo scanners were procured and donated by UNHCR to the Ministry of Health in support of the national COVID-19 response
100% of refugees in Umkulu camp received food assistance for six months
100% of refugees in the Umkulu camp received sanitary items
2021 planning figures
400 refugees and returnees will benefit from protection assistance
200 refugees will receive monthly multi-purpose cash assistance
40 refugees will benefit from facilitated voluntary return

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Decrease in
2020 218
2019 650
2018 2,570


[["Refugees",201],["Others of concern",17]]
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2020 {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"budget":[4.89103671,3.8990943,5.22322441,9.72828768,9.528287220000001,8.72828675],"expenditure":[3.52431606,3.72825424,3.88632205,2.4504214500000003,1.70070377,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[4.89103671,3.8990943,5.22322441,9.72828768,9.528287220000001,8.72828675],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2016,2017,2018,2019,2020,2021],"p1":[3.52431606,3.72825424,3.88632205,2.4504214500000003,1.70070377,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018
  • 2019
  • 2020
  • 2021

Operational context

In 2020, the protection and working environment remained very challenging. This limited UNHCR’s ability to register new arrivals and support voluntary repatriation activities for Somali refugees. Furthermore, UNHCR’s partnership with the Office of Refugee Affairs and the Ministry of National Development remained suspended. While UNHCR was unable to access the refugee camp, the Office was authorized to deliver food assistance on a monthly basis for the first six months of the year. UNHCR was also no longer authorized to work with urban refugees. 
The Government did not request UNHCR’s support in response to the Tigray emergency. UNHCR prepared and contributed to the UN Country Team Contingency plan, which included both refugees and IDPs.

UNHCR continued to advocate for a national legal asylum and refugee framework and accession to relevant international refugee and statelessness instruments.

Population trends

There were 201 refugees in Eritrea at the end of 2020, namely Somalis residing in the Umkulu camp as well as refugees from Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Sudan residing in urban areas. With the exception of Somalis, all urban refugees are recognized as refugees by the Government on a prima facie basis.  

Key achievements

  • About 1.8 metric tons of food assistance were delivered to the Umkulu camp to address the nutritional need of refugees. 
  • As part of UNHCR’s advocacy efforts, the African Charter on Rights and Welfare of the Child was translated into Tigrinya. 500 copies were printed, and half of these were distributed to Government offices. 
  • As part of UNHCR’s COVID-19-related response, the operation delivered sanitary materials to the camp refugees and the camp clinic; however, Government restrictions that came into effect in July 2020 halted this activity.   

Unmet needs

  • UNHCR was unable to provide cash assistance to urban refugees as a result of Government restrictions. This increased the economic hardship on the refugees as they had nothing to depend on for their survival. UNHCR was not permitted to have contact with the refugees and will continue to advocate for access in the coming year. 
  • Camp-based refugees were denied protection assistance due to Government restrictions. UNHCR could not verify whether humanitarian standards had been maintained, despite assurances from the Government.   

Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)

UNHCR was only able to provide limited assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers in the country due to Government restrictions; however, the limited assistance UNHCR could provide was almost entirely made possible by flexible funding.

Working environment

The protection environment in Eritrea is challenging. There is no legal framework for refugees and Eritrea not a party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and applicable frameworks. The government has also not yet acceded to either statelessness convention.  Furthermore, in 2019, the Government asked UNHCR to cancel the Eligibility Guidelines for Assessing International Protection Needs of Asylum-Seekers from Eritrea. This has affected the operational environment, limiting access to the refugee camp and service provision, including UNHCR support for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees and the registration of new arrivals. Access to urban refugees is tolerated, but home visits are not authorized.
UNHCR continues to advocate the Government to grant people of concern access to support and assistance. If UNHCR does not regain full access by 2020, measures to allow interim arrangements will be pursued so that refugees obtain minimal levels of assistance and protection.
UNHCR coordinates its operations with the UN Country Team and within the various inter-agency groups.

Key priorities

In 2020, UNHCR will:
  • Advocate the Government accedes to or ratifies the international refugee convention and adopts national asylum legislation in line with international law to ensure the right to asylum and to uphold its international obligations towards refugees, especially given regional uncertainties.
  • Advocate for adoption and ratification of the statelessness conventions.
  • Provide basic assistance and support to refugees in the camp and urban areas through partners or alternative arrangements, such as cash-based interventions.
  • Advocate the Government reconsiders its position on finding durable solutions and works with UNHCR on voluntary repatriation and resettlement for those who meet the eligibility criteria. Also encourage local integration for those married to Eritreans.
Latest contributions
  • 15-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 14-OCT-2021
  • Qatar

    private donors

  • 12-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Ireland
  • Italy

    private donors

  • 09-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 08-OCT-2021
  • Japan

    private donors

  • 06-OCT-2021
    United States of America

    private donors

  • 05-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 04-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • 01-OCT-2021

    private donors

  • Germany
  • 30-SEP-2021

    private donors

  • Switzerland

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  • Brazil

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  • Philippines

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