Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Only asylum seekers from southern Somalia are granted prima facie status. All other asylum claims must be reviewed by the National Eligibility Commission, which falls under the Ministry of Interior and consists of the UNHCR and ONARS staff.
According to the UNHCR, the country hosted approximately 24,500 refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from south and central Somalia and Ethiopia.
During the year approximately 100 Somalis arrived in the country each month, representing a major decrease from 2013, when an estimated 200 refugees arrived each month. New arrivals originated from south and central Somalia and reported continuous and targeted violence.
In the past most new refugees arrived at the Ali Addeh camp, which reached maximum capacity several years ago. To reduce congestion the UNHCR and ONARS reopened a second camp at Holl-Holl in 2012. A validation census of refugees in existing camps and in the city continued and identified those who arrived after 2009 for voluntary relocation to the new camp. Approximately 4,000 refugees lived in Djibouti City. Organizational difficulties and resource constraints prevented ONARS and the UNHCR from providing adequate services to refugees in both camps and in Djibouti City, including the prompt processing of refugee claims.
Due to the unresolved 2008 conflict between Djibouti and Eritrea and the mandatory military conscription policy of the Eritrean government, the government considered Eritrean detainees as deserters from the Eritrean military rather than refugees. Beginning in 2011, however, the government allowed the UNHCR to screen and resettle more than 200 Eritrean detainees imprisoned at Nagad in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In April authorities released the approximately 200 remaining Eritreans from Nagad Detention Facility and placed them in the Ali Addeh refugee camp.
Refoulement: The government did not routinely grant refugee or asylum status to groups other than southern Somalis, and a backlog in refugee status determinations put individuals waiting for their screening at risk of expulsion to countries where they might be threatened. On May 24, two suicide bombers from Somalia attacked La Chaumiere restaurant in Djibouti’s city center, killing one victim and severely injuring others. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for this attack. After the attack government authorities officially closed the border with Somalia. The government stopped the new registration and refugee status determination processes, although the UNHCR reported that the government allowed new arrivals into the country.
There were occasional cases in which the government returned irregular migrants to their home country without the benefit of a refugee status determination. Most of these cases involved Ethiopian nationals, whom government officials categorically identified as economic migrants. The government, working with the International Organization for Migration, continued its efforts to differentiate refugees from irregular migrants. A lack of staff and other resources, however, impeded accurate vetting, particularly in light of the record number of irregular migrants transiting the country to Yemen.
Refugee Abuse: The government increased police presence at the Ali Addeh refugee camp from six to more than 30 police officers following the May 24 attack on La Chaumiere restaurant. Refugees had limited legal protections, since there were no permanent courts within the camps. Whether abuse or attacks were perpetrated by other refugees, members of neighboring communities, local officials, or the police, the nearly 25,000 refugees in camps had little redress. Camp staff reported numerous accusations of abuse by local officials. With the support of the local National Union of Djiboutian Women (UNFD), mobile courts traveled to the largest camp, Ali Addeh, to hear the backlog of pending cases, but such visits were sporadic. Although impunity remained a problem, the UNFD reported that eight rape cases resulted in convictions during the year and that the perpetrators remained in prison.
The government occasionally detained and deported large numbers of irregular migrants. The government gave these individuals the opportunity to claim refugee status, after which the National Eligibility Commission was supposed to determine their status. Prior to its last meeting in February, however, the commission had been inactive for several years, resulting in a serious backlog of individuals at risk of expulsion.
Employment: Scarce resources and employment opportunities limited opportunities for the local integration of refugees. Documented refugees were permitted to work, and many (especially women) did so in low-wage jobs such as house cleaning, babysitting, or construction. There was little recourse to challenge poor working conditions or ensure fair payment for labor.
Access to Basic Services: The Ali Addeh camp was overcrowded, and basic services such as potable water were inadequate. The Holl-Holl camp was not overcrowded, and the transfer of refugees from Ali Addeh camp to Holl-Holl camp continued. The government continued to issue birth certificates to children born in refugee camps, although ONARS continued to delay a verification exercise of the existing refugee database. While awaiting this exercise, ONARS officials issued only a limited number of identification cards and put on hold resettlement cases.
Refugees had access to primary schools in the camps where instruction was in English and Somali. They were eligible to attend French-language public secondary school outside the camps but rarely did so because of the language barrier. A limited number of spots in public technical schools became available to refugees.
Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to a limited number of individuals who may not qualify as refugees. Authorities jailed irregular migrants identified as economic migrants attempting to transit the country to enter Yemen and returned them to their countries of origin. The government worked with the International Organization for Migration to provide adequate health services to these migrants while they awaited deportation.