Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status. Asylum seekers from southern Somalia and Yemen 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 staff from UNHCR and the government’s National Office for Assistance to Refugees and Populations Affected by Disaster (ONARS).
According to UNHCR the country hosted approximately 13,000 refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from south and central Somalia and Ethiopia, in two refugee camps in the southern region of Ali Sabieh. An additional 2,800 individuals from Somalia and Ethiopia lived in urban areas, primarily in Djibouti City.
In the past most new Somali refugees arrived at the Ali Addeh camp, which reached maximum capacity several years ago. To reduce congestion, in 2012 UNHCR and ONARS reopened a second camp at Holl-Holl. UNHCR and ONARS completed a validation census of refugees in camps and in Djibouti City in January and identified those who arrived after 2009 for voluntary relocation to the new camp.
The country also began hosting refugees fleeing violence in Yemen starting in March. ONARS and UNHCR registered approximately 6,000 refugees coming from Yemen, at least 2,800 of whom were hosted in a refugee camp in the northern region of Obock.
Organizational difficulties and resource constraints prevented ONARS and UNHCR from providing adequate services to refugees in all camps and in Djibouti City, including the prompt processing of refugee claims.
Due to the unresolved conflict begun in 2008 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 UNHCR to screen and resettle more than 200 Eritrean detainees imprisoned at Nagad in the United States, Canada, and Europe. In 2014 authorities released the approximately 200 remaining Eritreans from Nagad Detention Facility and placed them in the Ali Addeh refugee camp. During the year the government continued to facilitate resettlement of this remaining group.
Refoulement: The government did not routinely grant refugee or asylum status to groups other than southern Somalis and--beginning in March--Yemenis. A backlog in refugee status determinations put individuals waiting for their screening at risk of expulsion to countries where they might be threatened. In 2014 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 and stopped the new registration and refugee status determination processes. Although the border remained officially closed during the year, UNHCR reported the government allowed new arrivals into the country. The government also resumed the refugee status determination process in June, hosting several sessions of the National Eligibility Commission each month thereafter.
There were numerous instances in which the government returned irregular migrants to their home country without giving them 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 (IOM), 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 large number of irregular migrants transiting the country to Yemen.
Refugee Abuse: The government maintained an increased police presence at the Ali Addeh refugee camp following the 2014 attack on La Chaumiere restaurant. Separately, gendarmes maintained a presence at the Markazi refugee camp. 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 police, the nearly 15,000 refugees in camps had little redress. Camp staff reported 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. Three cases of rape were reported, although the status of any subsequent investigations was unknown. Impunity remained a problem.
The government detained and deported large numbers of irregular migrants. The government sometimes gave individual irregular migrants the opportunity to claim refugee status, after which the National Eligibility Commission was supposed to determine their status. The commission resumed its activities and conducted several sessions each month beginning in June. A serious backlog of cases remained, however.
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 had better access to potable water than the Ali Addeh camp. The government continued to issue birth certificates to children born in the Ali Addeh and Holl-Holl refugee camps. ONARS and UNHCR completed a refugee verification exercise in January, which allowed ONARS and UNHCR officials to issue identification cards to all refugees more than 15 years old in the two refugee camps. UNHCR and ONARS resumed resettlement activities, which had been on hold since 2012.
ONARS and UNHCR established the Markazi refugee camp in May after Yemenis began arriving in Djibouti following the eruption of violence in Yemen. The Markazi camp provided Yemeni refugees with basic services such as water, food, shelter, and medical services. The government issued birth certificates to children born in the Markazi refugee camp. ONARS and UNHCR also began issuing identification cards to Yemeni refugees.
Refugees in the Ali Addeh and Holl-Holl camps had access to primary schools in the camps, where instruction was based on a Kenyan-adapted curriculum taught in English and French. Neither Kenyan nor Djiboutian authorities officially recognized the curriculum. Refugees 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. Refugees in Markazi camp had access to instruction based on a Yemeni curriculum taught in Arabic.
Durable Solutions: In conjunction with the IOM, the government supported vocational training for young refugees. This training program resulted in a small number of refugees finding local employment.
Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to a limited number of individuals who may not qualify as refugees. Authorities often 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 IOM to provide adequate health services to these migrants while they awaited deportation.