On 2 December, Ethiopia agreed to give the UN ‘unimpeded’ access to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to Tigray after a month of war has ravaged the northern region. This comes as reports are emerging that Eritrean refugees have been abducted by Eritrean forces assisting the Ethiopian army in the Tigray. Meanwhile, thousands of people continue to flee the instability to neighbouring Sudan.
UN officials announced the agreement which will allow aid workers access to government controlled areas in Tigray where federal troops have been battling the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The pact will allow the first aid to the region that was cut off due to the outbreak of fighting. For weeks UN agencies and others have pleaded for aid access to bring critical food, medicines and other supplies to two million people who are in need of assistance, a doubling of the number since before the conflict began. This comes after the UN sounded alarm over severe food shortages being faced by nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees sheltering in Tigray’s camps, requesting “urgent access” to deliver aid.
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) has highlighted reports of 6,000 Eritrean refugees being abducted by Eritrean armed forces assisting the Ethiopian army in Tigray. It is understood that the refugees were removed at gunpoint from the Shimelba and Hitsats camps and Shire town and are being forcibly returned to Eritrea. Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of HRCE said “The decision of the Ethiopian government not to protect refugees in its territory is an utter dereliction of duty. Allowing refugees to be abducted by troops whom they fled in the first place is tantamount to a crime against humanity.”
More than 46,000 Ethiopian refugees have now crossed the border into East Sudan, fleeing the conflict. UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi travelled to Sudan last week and announced the Inter Agency Refugee Emergency Response Plan for the Ethiopian refugee influx in to Sudan. The response plan envisages to meet the needs of 100,000 people.. However, there continues to be a “critical need” for additional settlement sites in Sudan as the Um Raquba settlement is at capacity.
The city of Mekelle was taken by federal forces on Saturday, with almost no resistance from the TPLF according to humanitarian workers. This comes almost a week after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed demanded the TPLF surrender or face an assault on the city. The Guardian reported that the TPLF appears to have retreated and this could signal an end to confrontations on the battlefield. Nonetheless, thousands of people are believed to have been killed while thousands more have been displaced by the fighting and fears the conflict may destabilise the horn wider Horn of Africa persist.
For further information:
- ECRE, Ethiopia: “Full-scale Humanitarian Crisis” Unfolding in Ethiopia as Thousands Flee to Sudan Every Day, November 2020
- ECRE, Ethiopia Passes New Law Improving Reception and Integration Standards for Refugees, February 2019
Photo: @mhrezaa on Unsplash