Ethiopia: UNHCR demands access to Eritrean refugees | Free press


Nearly 100,000 people from Eritrea have fled to the controversial Tigray region of northern Ethiopia and live in camps. Now there is concern that they will be drawn into the conflict that is smoldering there.

Geneva (dpa) – The UN Refugee Agency has called on Ethiopia to grant immediate access to tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region.

“The camps will now run out of food supplies. So hunger and malnutrition are a real danger, ”said UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch in Geneva on Tuesday. In addition, people are alarmed by reports of attacks, kidnappings and forced recruitment in the refugee camps.

Some 96,000 refugees from neighboring Eritrea live in Tigray, the disputed region of northern Ethiopia, according to the UN organization. Baloch said: “Ethiopia has been a welcoming country to Eritrean refugees for nearly two decades. But now we fear they will be involved in the conflict. “

Nearly a month ago, the Ethiopian government launched an offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has long dominated the region. Internet and telephone connections were cut, roads were blocked. Electricity and water supplies are limited. According to UNHCR, nearly 46,000 people have fled the fighting to neighboring Sudan. Last weekend, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, had been captured and that the offensive had ended.

The conflict is caused by tensions between Tigray and the central government. The TPLF dominated Ethiopia for over 25 years until Abiy came to power in 2018 and ousted the TPLF. Many people in Tigray do not feel represented by the central government and are demanding more autonomy. There are a number of ethnic tensions in the multi-ethnic state of Ethiopia with its approximately 112 million inhabitants.