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Family reunification in Hitsas refugee camp

Video on the family reunification process

In this video you will hear about family reunification in Hitsats refugee camp in the district of Shire, in Northern Ethiopia. You will learn how unaccompanied and separated children are reunified with family members through a kinship care programme facilitated by staff working for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

When unaccompanied and separated children first cross the border from Eritrea into Ethiopia, their details are documented by Ethiopian government officials. Border officials make a decision about the age of a refugee and whether they are unaccompanied or separated. UNHCR conducts the registration of refugees under an agreement with the Ethiopian Government’s department for Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). You may remember you saw a film of this process in course step 2.8.

During the registration process, efforts are made to find out whether a child has any family members or other legal/customary carers in Ethiopia. If this is the case, and the child is willing to live with this carer, plans are made to reunify them. Unaccompanied and separated children who do not have parents or other carers in the camps are found a foster family, or live in small group houses amongst the camp community.

In the video you will see a group of unaccompanied and separated children arriving at Hitsats Refugee Camp in the region of Shire, Northern Ethiopia. These children have travelled across the border from Eritrea. When they arrive in the camp they are greeted by a team of social workers. They are provided information about where they are and what will happen next. They are told about some of the services in the camp and how they will each be assigned a social worker. The children are then taken to small group homes in the camp where they meet their social worker for the first time. Then they wait until they are reunified with kin, placed in foster care or remain in a small group home. When possible, the process of reunification takes place on the day they arrive or very soon after. In the video you will hear Tasfaye Tilahun, a Child Protection Officer working for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) explaining the process to us. This includes the use of the UNHCR Best Interests Assessment and Best Interests Determination process. Tasfaye mentions many acronyms of the different agencies involved in supporting families. They include International Organisation for Migration (IOM), ARRA, UNICEF and NRC.

In the video you will also see a child who is being reunified with family members. However, during the process, the social workers become aware of protection concerns as the family wanted to send the child to another relative. Tasfaye provides us with an explanation of what happened during the meeting. He tells us how a Court Issue Paper has to be received that means checks have been made and the child can safely be reunited with another family member. You will also hear the important step taken to ask the child what they want.

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Caring for Children Moving Alone: Protecting Unaccompanied and Separated Children

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