conditions in the camp are crowded, with five to eight people sharing only one
room (COR, 2010). Refugees receive
monthly rations of food which are provided by the United Nations World Food
Program (COR, 2010). Refugees are fairly
healthy, though there are cases of HIV and AIDS (COR, 2010). Shimelba refugees are in a tough
position. They cannot go back to Eritrea
or they will face persecution (COR, 2010).
They are also not accepted in Ethiopia because of political issues (COR,
2010). The camp is in one of the most
highly militarized regions in Africa, and if war erupts again, refugees would
not be safe in the camp (COR, 2010).
Environment in the Shilmelba Refugee Camp
In order to escape a forced draft on
seventeenth birthdays, Eritrean people started fleeing to Ethiopia and
eventually constructing the Shimelba refugee camp. Currently around
11,000 refugees inhabit the camp, which in itself is only 45 kilometers
from the Eritrean border (COR, 2000). Out of the 11,000 refugees, only
10% are employed because Ethiopian law dictates that they cannot work
outside the camp. The small number of refugees that work do so on a
small strip within the camp called Little Asmara (COR, 2000).
A half a century ago, the land that
now houses the Shimelba refugee camp was lush forests filled with
animals, now it is almost desert like due to environmental degradation
(COR, 2010). The occupation of the area has left the land arid and
almost completely useless. It cannot sustain any agriculture and the
camp inhabitants are completely reliant on the United Nations World Food
Program for monthly rations (COR, 2010). Refugees themselves constantly
report that the food rations are not enough and that they sometimes
have to sell some of what they are given for other daily necessities.
water for the day is part of the daily ritual for young kids. There is
no running water in any of the houses, resulting in the task of going to
one of the few water taps that are scattered around the camp. The
International Rescue Committe (IRC) is the main supplier of water in an
otherwise arid environment with no natural resources for drinking
(Rescue.org, 2010). While children have this opportunity, women and men
occupy their day doing things like chatting, gathering wood, wash
clothing, and drink (COR, 2010).
Economic activities among refugees in the
Shimelba camp are limited. It is hard to find work when a majority
of them are restricted to staying inside the camp. The Ethiopian
government does not allow camp refugees to work for wages (COR,
2010). Some are employed by non-governmental organizations and
help to provide services within the camp (COR, 2010).
Economic Activities Among Shimelba Camp Refugees
Training for some skills is available
within the camp. In 2010, 300 to 400 Shimelba refugees received
training in electrical installation, carpet making, tailoring, dyeing
and silk printing, knitting, leather craftwork, and embroidery (COR).
Fewer than 10% of Shimelba refugees are employed, and those who are set
up small businesses from funds sent to them from relatives in the US
(Cultural Orientation Resource Center). The businesses include beauty
salons, retail shops, and restaurants (Cultural Orientation Resource
Center). Since refugees do not have access to local markets to sell
goods, women end up in prostitution and sexual exploitation (Arrault
& Miquel, 2007).
According to the Women’s Refugee
Commission, some women in the camp collect firewood for cooking and to
sell (2008). This comes with consequences, though. Trees are being
depleted with creates a competition for resources between refugees and
the local population (Women’s Refugee Commission, 2008). Also,
collecting wood is mostly a female job, and they are at high risk of
being attacked and harassed by males (Women’s Refugee Commission, 2008).
There are aid agencies that try to assist
refugees who don’t have access to resources. They help them
participate in the camp economy by giving them seed money, start-up
grants, and for those who submit business proposals, in-kind equipment
donations (Women’s Refugee Commission, 2008). There are different
aspects looked at when selecting businesses. Factors include
variability of activities proposed, market needs, and distribution of
opportunities within the ethnic groups (Women’s Refugee Commission,
A commonality between both
the Mai Aini and the Shimelba refugee camp is the presence of the
UNHCR. They have established HIV/AIDS prevention programs in both camps.
In the Shimelba Camp there is a health clinic ran by the UNHCR
alongside the International Rescue Committee who runs the vision clinic.
In the Shimelba camp, children under the age of 10 are at a high risk
for Vitamin A deficiency and Trachoma. A lot of children in the
camp often do not watch their hands and then proceed to rub their eyes.
Also in the Mai Aini camp there are a lot of children who have fled
Eritrea on their own now currently live in the camp by themselves. These
children are often depressed because they live without their parents
and are often unable to go back home.
In the Shimelba camp there
has also been different reports of physical abuse being an issue. Based
on statistics from 2006, the camp dynamics is made up of 72% males this
leads to females sometimes being marginalized and other times they are
viewed as valuable. BMC Public Health conducted
research on physical abuse towards females in the Shimelba camp and
found that out of 380 subjects approximately 38.9% were either currently
in an emotional or physically abusive relationship. This is a health
issue because females are being physically harmed. In addition the
emotional abuse that each women faces while it is not quantifiable still
affects females and the possibility of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,
Depression or other psychological issues may arise.
In the Shimelba camp,
there are two different ethnicities, the Tigrinya and the Kunama. The
Kunama’s often deal with health issues by consulting traditional healers
(who tend to be females). The Tigrinya on the other hand prefer to go
to Addis Ababa for aid, however they also do have traditional healers.
In the Mai Aini refugee camp malnutrition is an important issue; in a single month refugees receive, 6kg
of wheat, 900ml of cooking oil, 1.5kg of Fava beans or chick peas,
1.5kg of Fafa, 400g of sugar and half a cup of salt. According to
the Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea refugees
have no monetary source and are thus forced to use half of their monthly
wheat allotment to pay for their wheat to convert to flour.
Political Activities Of The Shimelba Refugee Camp
The Shimelba Refugee Camp is located in
Ethiopia and consists of residents who have fled from Ethiopia’s
neighboring country Eritrea. The camp is located outside of Shiraro in
Northern Ethiopia, about 45 kilometeres from the Eritrean border. The
information I researched stated that in 2010 there were 44, 800 refugees
from Eritrea in Ethiopia (UNHCR, 2010). The Ethiopian
government runs the camp, and the UNHCR oversees all of their
operations. The joint UNHCR / government duties include improving the
coordination and resource management for refugee programs, as well as
strengthening contingency planning. Together, these organizations
interact with one another and other international governments for
resettlement opportunities and humanitarian aid. The Central Committee
is elected by the camp population, and represents the refugees on
various issues, liaising with NGOs and the Ethiopian government, as well
as supporting the management of the camp (COR, 2010). The Ethiopian
government prohibits refugees from being employed or participating in
political organizations, and there are very few productive activities
for refugees to partake in (COR, 2010). By limiting the rights of the
refugees the government has the ability to protect the work
opportunities and safety of the Ethiopian citizens. For quite some time
the Ethiopian government made local integration impossible, and
the Shimelba residents were not allowed to work outside of the
camp, resulting in an employment rate of 10% (COR, 2010).
The Ethiopian government created an official organization that takes on
the task of registering, processing and monitoring the refugees in order
to manage the circumstances of refugee life (Harmon-Gross, 2009). The
organization, the Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs works closely
with UNHCR and other non-governmental organizations to maintain the
operation of the refugee regime (UNHCR, 2010). The Agency for
Refugee and Returnee Affairs, also known as the ARRA, runs the camp
while the UNHCR operates in the role of the contractor. UNHCR
and ARRA have many intersecting policies that maintain the camps in
an orderly fashion, but that undermine the human rights of
refugees. Some of these policies include restricting the freedom of
movement of refugees and preventing them from accessing paid employment
(both human rights guaranteed by international law) and
indirectly, by not strictly enforcing women‘s rights within the
camp (Harmon-Gross, 2009).The other non-governmental organizations that
are present within the camp are the International Rescue Committee and
the ZOA, a German nonprofit organization. The International Rescue
Committee supplies the camp with some of their major necessities
including clean drinking water, sanitation, and education. Along with
that aid they supply assistance and support to disabled people as well
as youth, along with assisting women who have suffered sexual or
domestic violence. The ZOA operates training programs that help the
refugees gain income-generating skills. The
United Nations World Food Program provides food; refugees have a
standard monthly ration of wheat cereal, white bean legumes, lentils or
peas, fortified vegetable oil, salt and sugar. Their water supply is
maintained at 20 L per day per person. Unfortunately, there is not a
good relationship between the ARRA, UNHCR and the refugees, there is a
noticeable lack of trust and the refugees are dissatisfied with their
Security and War
Ethiopia and Eritrea have had poor
relations for quite a while therefore causing many security concerns for
the host country Ethiopia. The two countries were in a war for 30 years
that resulted in Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia, causing even
thicker tensions between the two that eventually led to a 2-year border
war between 1998-2000. During this time many people died causing
Eritreans to cross the border to escape danger and seek asylum in
Ethiopia, specifically in the Shimelba refugee camp. Because of the
political tensions, it is now illegal in Eritrea for an individual to
cross the border into an enemy state. So those that do cross are now
risking being seen as collaborators of the state and putting themselves
at great risk. (COR Center Refugee Backgrounder No. 5, 2010, 1).
Eritreans also fled their country because of a forced term of national
service with an unknown end time as well as a worsening economic
situation (UNFPA, 2007, 22).
Additionally, Shimelba’s location adds
to the host security concerns because it is only 30 kilometers from the
Eritrean border. This is a big worry since, especially recently, fears
of another border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea is surfacing,
therefore the refugees in Shimelba would be at risk being so close to
the conflict. As of March 2012, Ethiopia raided 3 rebel led camps in
Eritrea now resulting in a fear that Eritrea may strike back (BBC News,
2012). Additionally, Shimelba is located near artillery shells and land
mines, which is another security concern for the refugees. Therefore the
Ethiopian government has made movement in and out of the camp is
greatly restricted where a refugee must attain a pass permit in order to
leave in an attempt to maintain security (EHREA, 2007, 1).
In Shimelba, interpersonal violence
is a key contributing threat to the camps overall security. This concern
has been made clear by an overwhelming amount of sources, therefore
resulting to be a very valid and real claim and fundamental concern
within Shimelba. This concern could be due to the drastic difference in
the amount of men to women in the camp with a ratio of 6:1. Therefore,
concerns revolving around women walking far distances to fetch firewood
as well as poor lighting in the camp become security threats for women
resulting in fear of abuse in both situations. (COR Center Refugee
Backgrounder No. 5, 2010, 24; 28). Because of the statistics of female
domestic abuse, a strong need for protection of women has resulted
within Shimelba. In response to this concern, a report from 2007 stated
that the IRC had created a “safe space” in the wellness center that is
guarded constantly for women’s protection as well as two houses in the
camp for women to stay in after staying in the safe space. Initiatives
of a neighborhood watch system was also implemented so that everyone
could look out for each other within specific zones. Gender based
violence training as well as female police officers are also being
implemented as a way to alleviate this concern (UNFPA, 2007, 25).
Within the camp, the ARRA, IRC and
ZOA are the main organizations in charge of security and protection of
the refugees under the instruction of UNCHR making sure they are being
protected (EHREA, 2007, 1). Unfortunately, the relationship between the
police and the refugees could be better. It has been noted by the UNFPA
that the refugees apparently would not come to the police to report
problems because they thought it would be pointless. The UNFPA goes to
explain that the police have a mentality that all the refugees are
interested in is resettlement when they come with a problem and likewise
the refugees think that the police only see them as spies for the
Eritrean government as of 2007. Therefore, according to this particular
source, relations could be better between police and refugees for the
sake of security and protection (UNFPA, 2007, 25).
Abraha, Michael. "CDRiE Plans to Launch New Eritrean Relief Agency." Assenna.com. Citizens for
Democratic Rights in Eritrea, 18 Jan. 2010. Web. 15 Feb. 2012. <http://assenna.com/cdrie-plans-
This was an article written by an Eritrean
non-governmental organization that was reporting on the situation in the
Mai Aini refugee camp. While the information appears to be credible, we
have to keep in consideration that this NGO is from Eritrea and there
may be political influences in its description of the refugee
"An Ethanol-fueled Household Energy Initiative in the Shimelba Refugee Camp, Tigray, Ethiopia: A Joint
Study by the UNHCR and the Gaia Association." UNHCR-RLO, Jan. 2006. Web. Feb. 2012.
This source was about an
ethanol-fueled household energy initiative in the Shimelba Refugee camp.
It provided an overview of the refugee camp, including statistics about
gender relations and population size of the camp. This is a reliable
source because this was a research study that utilized reliable research
methods to collect and analyze the data.
Arrault, Matthieu, and Jennifer Miquel. "GBV ASSESSMENT REPORT." UNFPA (2007): 1-52. Web.
The United Nations Population Fund is an international development agency with its main
goal to promote human rights, specifically sexual and reproductive
health and rights by helping countries use research and analysis to help
its people. This agency is particularly aimed at bettering individual’s
sexual health and gender issues all under the umbrella topic of human
rights, so it is therefore somewhat limited with the information it
provides. It provides excellent statistics and overviews of particular
domestic abuse problems in Shimelba and follows up with what is
necessary to counteract it.
Cultural Orientation Department of JVA/Nairobi. Retrieved March 2012. Website. Cultural
Orientation Resource Center, Center for Applied Linguistics, Overseas CO Program Highlight,
Eritrean Refugees in the Shimelba Refugee Camp, Ethiopia. Retrieved from
The main topic in this source is the resettlement of Eritrean
refugees to the United States. This information covers the processes in
which refugees from the Shimelba refugee camp prepare to leave for their
new lives in the United States. The source also gives background
information on the camps political structure. This source is very
detailed, but there is no date for the information that is given, so it
is difficult to say what the camps current state is. The research seems
legitimate secondary source.
"Eritrean Refugees from the Shimelba Refugee Camp." COR Center Refugee Backgrounder No. 5
(2010): 1-6. Web. http://www.cal.org/co/pdffiles/backgrounder_shimelba.pdf
Cultural Orientation Resource Center provides crucial
information about new refugee groups for U.S. resettlement workers
ultimately working to make the transition for refugees and the U.S.
communities that they resettle in as smooth and informed as possible.
They basically serve as an orientation resource for refugees before they
are resettled. This source was helpful because it provided statistics
and background on the Shimelba refugees. However, it may be limited in
what information it provides in terms of what qualifies a refugee to be
"Eritrean Refugees in the Shimelba Refugee Camp,
Ethiopia." Cultural Orientation Resource
Center. Web. 4 Mar. 2012. <Eritrean Refugees in
the Shimelba Refugee Camp, Ethiopia>.
This source gives an overview
of the Shimelba camp. I learned about skills refugees can be trained in
and how they can start their own businesses within the camp. This is the
same organization as the previous source and is therefore reliable.
“Eritrean Refugees in Shimelba camp, Tigray Region, Ethiopia.” EHREA Eritrean Human Rights
Electronic Archive, 2011. Web. 01 Apr. 2012. http://www.ehrea.org/refa.pdf
This source I found helpful because it is an archive that
gathers many articles and sources about atrocities committed in the
realm of human rights for Eritreans. While it does present a multitude
of facts, statistics and real events, it is overall a biased source
defending solely the Eritrean people by only providing crimes committed
against them – not successful or positive stories. Through this source I
found documents providing statistics of life in the camp specifically
about security and the groups providing protection to the camp.
Harmon-Gross, Elizabeth. Retrieved March 2012. Seeking Resettlement and Navigating
Transnational Politics: The Intersection of Policies, Human Rights and Individuals in Shimelba
Refugee Camp. Masters Theses. Retrieved from http://trace.tennessee.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?
This article is an overall description of the Shimelba refugee
camp. It covers the political activities, the need for resettlement, and
the cultural characteristics of the camp. I believe this to be a
Heller, Lauren. "Working Women at Risk: The Links Between
Making a Living and Sexual
Violence for Refugees in
Ethiopia." Women's Refugee Commission. Sept. 2008. Web. 4 Mar. 2012.
This source described how women
in refugee camps have to provide for themselves, which can lead to violence and
exploitation. In the Shimelba camp, I learned that when women collect firewood,
they are often attacked by males. This was published by the Women's
Refugee Commission, who works with the UN and other humanitarian organizations,
so they are reputable.
"Intimate Partner Physical Violence among Women in Shimelba Refugee Camp, Northern Ethiopia." BMC
Public Health. BioMed Central, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 15 Feb. 2012.
source discussed intimate partner physical violence among women in
Shimelba Refugee Camp. This provided insight into to the gender roles
and dynamics of the refugee camp, through a research study. This source
is reliable because it is a research study that contains data that was
collected through a survey that women in the refugee camp took
Offer, Joanne. "Growing Up in a Refugee Camp [Photos]." Rescue and Refugee Support.
International Rescue Committee, 16 June 2010. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.
This resource supplied information
about the resources the IRC supplies to the refugee camp. It gives and
overview of daily life and a good idea of how the environment plays into
it. This site also shows many interesting pictures that demonstrates
what they are talking about, especially the houses and the water
pipelines. The validity of this resources lies in the involvement of the
IRC, who is currently in Shimelba
helping out at the camp.
Plaut, Martin. "Are Ethiopia and Eritrea Heading Back to War?" BBC News. BBC, 21 Mar. 2012. Web.
02 Apr. 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-7433871
This is a very valid source with no clear bias in this article; rather,
it is just providing the information about what is currently happening
in Eritrea and Ethiopia. BBC states that they are unable to predict what
will happen in the future in terms of another breakout of war and
therefore just presents what each country is saying at the current time.
"Restoring Vision to Ethiopia." International Rescue Committee, 15 Dec. 2008. Web. Feb. 2012.
This source discusses the
health clinic that is located in the Shimelba camp, ran by the
International Rescue Committee. This is a reliable source because it is
coming directly from the International Rescue Committee and there is
factual information presented in the article.
UNHCR. 2010. UNHCR Global Report 2010. Website. Retrieved from http://www.unhcr.org/4dfdbf494.pdf
This website gave factual numerical values for the population of the
refugee camps all over Ethiopia in 2010. This is a valid and reputable
source because the UNHCR works side by side with the Ethiopian
government in the camps operations.