Official Statement on the situation of Eritrean Refugees in Ethiopia (July 14, 2021)

The Ethiopian Government and its people have a longstanding reputation for hosting and protecting refugees. The government is working hard to ensure that refugees contribute to peace and prosperity in the Horn of Africa and the world at large upon their return to their countries of origin and to the world they live in. Currently, Ethiopia is home to more than 900,000 refugees, mainly from neighbouring South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.

In contravention to these facts, reports are emerging from different directions regarding attacks on Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region. To set the record straight, the attack began back in November 2020, as the Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) forces targeted two of the refugee camps, namely Shimelba and Hitsats and seriously affected the refugee operation. As a result, the two camps were out of service, and the refugees were scattered to the surroundings. Following the law enforcement operation, we resume regular service provisions to refugees in Mai-aini and Adi-harush camps, located scattered refugees across the Tigray region and in towns and cities across the country including the capital, Addis Ababa. In an effort to consolidate the refugees, the government succeeded in relocating about 9,000 to Mai-aini and Adi-harush, where they could access the required humanitarian services. As part of the protection efforts, a lot has also been done through continuous security checks in the refugee camps to help refugees develop a sense of security. More than 5,200 refugees were registered in Addis Ababa and registration has continued. Furthering the efforts, we managed to transfer several refugees to Berahle refugee camp in the Afar region. Recently, ARRA has requested UNHCR Ethiopia to transport 79 refugees for relocation from Shire to Berahle and working closely to that effect, and also assessing if there is a need for similar arrangements.

In addition, to give a lasting solution to the refugees that left Shimelba and Hitsats, in coordination with UNHCR Ethiopia, a new camp establishment is in progress at North Gondar Zone of Dabat Woreda in a locality called Alem-Wach, though the support that is anticipated from the international community has not been forthcoming.

Despite these encouraging efforts, it is becoming clear that TPLF has rejected the Government’s humanitarian cease-fire and engaging in fresh attacks including in refugee-hosting areas. As a result, Eritrean refugees in Mai-aini and Adi-harush camps feel that they are in imminent danger and in need of immediate solutions in the form of relocation to safer locations, grant to urban status and third-country solutions. To that effect, we have conducted continuous discussions with refugee representatives, the recent being a joint one at the presence of UNHCR on July 13, 2021 in Dabat, at Alem-Wach, a location for the new refugee camp. The Government is working hard to meet their demands through relocation and granting assisted urban status with optimism that their voices will be heard by the international humanitarian actors. Cognizant of these developments, we call upon international community to join efforts to accelerate the relocation process by availing of active and tangible support.

While reaffirming its commitment to the safety of refugees, the Government of Ethiopia calls upon the international community to unanimously condemn the torture and killing of Eritrean refugees by TPLF, and support investigations on the reported incidents of reprisal attacks, abductions, arrests and violence by the same group.

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