Eritrean refugees “forcibly conscripted from UN camps to fight in Mekelle”

This news comes from two different sources.

It has been gathered from the camps holding some 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray.



Mai Ayni: The camp (home to 21,682 residents according to UNHCR) is calm now, having been the scene of fighting earlier in the week. They were visited by a humanitarian agency (not identified) who attempted to re-assure the residents. The camps still have no certainty that they will be re-supplied at the end of this month.
There is no news at all from two of the other camps – Shimelba (8,702 residents) or Hitsats (25,248).
An Eritrean mother in the Eritrean town of Dekemhare (40 km South-East of the Eritrean capital, Asmara) saw her son on one of three busses that were being driven northwards. She recognised him and said that he had previously been in Shimelba camp, as a refugee.
There are unconfirmed reports of Eritrean refugees being forcibly enlisted from the camps, to participate in the attack on Mekelle. Many of the younger refugees would have had military training before they fled across the Eritrean border into Ethiopia.

Isaias’s Occupying Forces Roundup (Giffa) Refugees in Tigray

At dawn, Thursday 27 November 2020, over 3,000 (exact number TBC) young refugees were rounded up in Hitsats  refugee camp in Tigray by Eritrean Forces. Their current whereabouts remains unknown.  Hitsats camp has been under the Eritrean occupying forces for about two weeks and the refugees have been increasingly worried about their fate.

The remaining women and children in Hitsats refugee camp are concerned and panicking, fearful that they could be used as human shield by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces who are pushing towards Mekelle – Tigray’s main city with approximately 500,000 inhabitants.

In addition, Eritrean forces have rounded up unknown number of refugees from Shimelba refugee camp in Tigray. These roundups of refugees are against international law because they breach the fundamental rights of refugees to safety and security.

A large number of refugees worried about what is happening in Hitsats and Shimelba are fleeing the camps, with some of them crossing into the Amhara region. This is a tragedy because the Amahara are the main forces pushing into Tigray in collaboration with Eritrean forces. These refugees may also end up in the hands of the Eritrea regime from whom they fled in the first place.

The refugees at Hitsats who find themselves in this tragic conflict between the Tigrayan forces on the one hand and Eritrean/Ethiopian forces on the other hand, and are in serious danger of death or injury. So far, 5 refugees have killed. Over the last two weeks these refugees have not had food, health care and they have been denied their right to safety and security.

All humanitarian organisations have left Tigray, leaving over 100,000 Eritrean refugees to fend for themselves and they are at the mercy of Eritrean forces. They face thirst, hunger and lack of medical care as well as routine rounding up by Eritrean forces.

Some of the refugees who are unable to escape from the camps say the tragedy unfolding in the area could be on a scale the world has not seen before, and must be halted immediately.

The refugees plead to the Eritrean diaspora in Europe, North America and elsewhere to call on the UN and the International Community to help find a peaceful resolution to this unnecessary and catastrophic conflict.

Message received by ATV, 27 November 2020 (Translated from Tigrinya to English)

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