The Biden administration on Friday announced that it would allow Ethiopians living in the United States to apply for temporary protected status, as a civil war in their home country rages on, putting civilians at risk of violent attacks, detentions and other human rights violations.
The TPS designation is a first for people from Ethiopia. It will allow them to apply to stay in the U.S. for 18 months and legally work. It only applies to people who have been in the country before Oct. 20 of this year.
About 26,700 people will be eligible, according to the Department of Homeland Security, though the estimate is preliminary.
“The United States recognizes the ongoing armed conflict and the extraordinary and temporary conditions engulfing Ethiopia, and DHS is committed to providing temporary protection to those in need,” said DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement.
Ethiopians who cannot safely return to the conflict “will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve,” he said.
Fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia began in 2020, when government troops began battling separatist forces. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.
Dozens of women and girls have been raped and hundreds of civilians have been killed, according to an official document recently seen by The Associated Press.
The violence has escalated in recent weeks, causing aid to millions of people to be suspended, and the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said this week that fighting and destruction have reached “alarming levels.”
“We need the urgent resumption of talks towards an effective, lasting political settlement,” he said. “The international community must rally together now for peace in Ethiopia.”
The U.S. sent its envoy to the Horn of Africa to the country twice in a little over a month in an attempt to help broker peace, an effort being led by the African Union.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said in a statement that the TPS designation is "important recognition that no Ethiopian on the safety of U.S. soil should be returned to such dire circumstances. The move is a potentially lifesaving reprieve for tens of thousands of Ethiopians who have already contributed so much to U.S. communities.
"Beyond this critical designation, we also encourage Members of Congress to use the numerous bills before them to provide lasting stability for other TPS holders who have no clear path to lawful permanent residency and remain in revolving legal limbo.”