ETHIOPIA: UNHCR Calls for Humanitarian Assistance for Eritrean Refugees in Tigray

By Njoki Githinji

TIGRAY, JANUARY 15, 2021 (CISA) – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has expressed concern on the humanitarian situation in the conflict infested Tigray region, particularly for the refugees form Eritrea.

“I remain extremely troubled by the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and its impact on civilians, in particular Eritrean refugees hosted in the region… Refugees arriving on foot to Shire town in Tigray are emaciated, begging for aid that is not available. Refugees who reached Addis Ababa are being returned to Tigray, some against their will,” he said in a January 14 statement.

According to UNHCR, access two of the refugee camps in the area has been denied for humanitarian aid which continues to worsen the humanitarian situation.

“…in spite of repeated requests, UNHCR and partners have not yet had any access to the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps since the start of the law and order operation two months ago. I am very worried for the safety and well-being of Eritrean refugees in those camps. They have been without any aid for many weeks,” he said.

He further denounced the human rights abuse being perpetrated against the refugees noting that it is a violation of major international laws.

“I continue to receive many reliable reports and first-hand accounts of ongoing insecurity and allegations of grave and distressing human rights abuses, including killings, targeted abductions and forced return of refugees to Eritrea. Reports of additional military incursions over the last 10 days are consistent with open source satellite imagery showing new fires burning and other fresh signs of destruction at the two camps. These are concrete indications of major violations of international law,” he said.

He called on the government of Ethiopia to protect the refugees from the impact of the ongoing conflict in Tigray.

“I have impressed upon the Ethiopian leadership the urgency of ensuring the protection of refugees, preventing forced return, and keeping refugee camps safe from attacks and other threats from armed actors,” he said.

Since November 2020, Tigray region has been experiencing conflict between the Tigray Regional Government that is led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF); and forces supporting Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.