Ethiopia: Open Letter to PM Abiy on closing Refugee Camps for 18,000 Eritreans

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To:       H. E Dr Abiy Ahmed, Prime Minister of Ethiopia

Cc:        Director General ARRA

            Ethiopian Minister of Health

             African Union


             Resident Representative UNHCR – Ethiopia

             Delegation European Union to Ethiopia

             All Party Parliamentary Group (UK)

             Foreign & Commonwealth Offices (FCO)

             USA State Department

 Open Letter on the Closure of Hitsats Eritrean Refugee Camp in Ethiopia

We, appreciate and encourage your Government’s efforts towards forging lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea. In particular we are thankful that Ethiopia has accepted and supported so many Eritrean Refugees and that, under your leadership, this welcome has continued to date.

We also value your parliament’s, January 2019, legislation that has given refugees the legal right to work, access primary education, obtain a driver’s licence, register births and marriages and open bank accounts. These actions have been significant and have assisted many Eritreans.

However, recent developments in Ethiopia in regard to Eritrean refugees are very concerning. We are troubled, by reports that: (i) your Government has ceased to apply as of right refugee status to Eritreans; (ii) Hitsats refugee camp, holding 18,000 Eritrean refugees, is to be closed; and (iii) refugees will be relocated to a camp that has no infrastructure and is already overcrowded.

Considering the global Coronavirus pandemic, we strongly urge your Government to reconsider plans for the relocations of Hitsats refugees to a location that is overcrowded and has no infrastructure. We believe that such move will be contrary to the WHO drive to contain the spreading of the virus and will expose both refugees and host populations to unnecessary risk of contagion.

We encourage your Government to continue to adhere to International and National norms and standards for the protection of Eritrean refugees and to cease actions to close Hitsas camp.

Eritrean refugees are fleeing a human right abuse situation in their country that the UN Commission of Inquiry as to Human Rights in Eritrea has described as ‘Crimes against humanity’. After a thorough examination of the situation in Eritrea, in 2016, the UN Commission found that in Eritrea there are:

“…. reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991. Eritrean officials have engaged in a persistent, widespread and systematic attack against the country’s civilian population since 1991. They have committed, and continue to commit, the crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, other inhumane acts, persecution, rape and murder.”

Finally, any changes in the future status of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia must include the voices of the refugees and must be linked to necessary social and political changes in Eritrea. Therefore, your Government’s ongoing peace dialogue with Eritrea should also address the following issues:

  1. Reform of the National Service. Starting with a freeze on new intakes, the application of the statutory 18 months limit. And, finally decoupling it from education;
  1. The recall of the National Assembly that has not met since 2002. The key institution to further the peace process with Ethiopia;
  1. Peace and reconciliation between the various Eritrea opposition groups including the release of political prisoners;
  1. Implementation of the 1997 Constitution.

If there are no changes within Eritrea, and there are not peace dividends for the people of Eritrea, the youth  will continue  to flee  the country and the best that Ethiopia  will achieve  from the peace process is a higher order  version  of the – “No War , No Peace” that existed  prior to  2018.

While there are no changes within Eritrea, we urge you not to close Hitsats camp and not to transfer refugees to camps that have no infrastructure and are already overcrowded. We also urge your Government to continue:

  1. accepting Eritrean refugees in as of right;
  1. protecting and safeguarding Eritrean refugees.

Yours Truly

Habte Hagos


In Solidarity – Open Letter on Closure of Hitsats Eritrean Refugee Camp in Ethiopia




1.     African Monitors

Africa Monitors

2.     Eritrea Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)

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Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)

3.     Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)

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Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)

4.     Foundation  Human Rights  for Eritreans

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Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans



In Solidarity – Open Letter on Closure of Hitsats Eritrean Refugee Camp in Ethiopia


5.     Horn of Africa Forum For Civil Society

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Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum

6.     Network for Eritrean Women

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Network of Eritrean Women





  1. Totally, I urge the goverment of ethiopia not to relocate the eritrean refugee hintsas.Because thatvkind of action is a sucide for my people and comfort to spread the corona virus stutus.Finally Irecall all the who,aminstey,unisco ,unicief,humanrights should fight this case.And i am thankfull for the ppl and goverment of ethiopias effort since the camps were opened.thankyou

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