Source: Human Rights Concern-Eritrea
Ethiopia- Thousands of Eritrean Refugees Abducted from Tigray Camps by Eritrean Armed Forces
Reports are emerging that 6,000 Eritrean Refugees, who were living in two of the four refugee camps and in the town of Shire in the Tigray Regional State of Ethiopia, have been abducted by Eritrean armed forces working in Tigray with the permission of the Ethiopian army. 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.
Following a period of electoral and constitutional disputes, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, ordered Federal forces on 4th November to move into Tigray and impose a state of emergency by force. Heavy fighting has occurred ever since, with Eritrean armed forces apparently active alongside Ethiopian armed forces. It would appear that the Ethiopian government has allowed Eritrean military personnel total freedom to deal with Eritrean citizens in Tigray as they see fit.
There are up to 100,000 Eritrean refugees in Tigray, almost half of them, living largely in four United Nations-sponsored camps, Hitsats, Mai-Aini, Adi-Harush and Shemelba. However, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is currently unable to provide them with protection, food or health care.
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) commented in a Press Release earlier this month that there was a very real danger that Eritrean refugees might be driven out of the camps, kidnapped or forcibly returned to Eritrea, where arrest, imprisonment, torture and possible execution would almost certainly be their fate.
These camps are under the official protection of the UNHCR. The Ethiopian Government is directly responsible to UNHCR for the safety of refugees in the camps. Under international law the Ethiopian Government must ensure the safety of all refugees in its care, and is responsible for preventing any criminal acts against them. Under the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, “No State shall expel or return (” refoule “) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened.”
Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of HRCE, has issued the following statement: –
- “The criminal kidnapping of defenceless Eritrean refugees must be stopped. Eritrean troops must not be allowed anywhere near these Eritrean refugees, for whose protection Ethiopia is primarily responsible.The decision of the Ethiopian government not to protect refugees in its territoryis 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.
- If refugees from Eritrea are forcibly returned to the country from which they have fled, arrest, imprisonment and torture are almost certain to be their fate. This must be prevented.
- The very lives and survival of Eritreans in the refugee camps are now hugely endangered. It is vital that the Ethiopian government takes action, protects the camps, and prevents the Eritrean army or any security agents from having any access to the camps and those dwelling in them.
- It appears that these refugees were abandoned by the humanitarian organizations including the UNHCR that were responsible for their care. Why has no one raised their voice against the inhuman treatment of the defenceless refugees? This would appear to be a dereliction of responsibility by those in charge of the camps.
- The UNHCR must be given full access to the camps and provided with safe corridors to supply all necessary food and medical services to these refugees.
- HRCE is appealing most urgently to all member states of the UN to intervene and put pressure on the governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea to give immediate priority to the protection of Eritrean refugees.”
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
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