Ethiopian troops – some of them special forces – have seized Eritrean refugees who escaped the war in Tigray and reached the outskirts of Addis Ababa.
Sixty-eight refugees (12 children, 25 women and 31 men), who were previously housed at the four UNHCR camps in Tigray, have been detained and are appealing for help.
All are registered with the UNHCR and fear that they could be forcibly returned to Eritrea. They are asking to be released, to live in Addis with others in the local Eritrean community.
The refugees are currently being detained near a checkpoint known as Tilu Dimtu (ቲሉ ዲምቱ). This is in the suburb of Gelan, south of the city. They are said to be being held in a metal shed close to condominium homes in the area.
When the war broke out in November last year 96,000 Eritreans were housed in four UNHCR camps situated in Tigray. Previous groups of Eritrean refugees who managed to make it to Addis Ababa were forcibly returned to the camps from which they had fled.
The UN has managed to visit the two southern camps – Mai Ani and Adi Harush – but the two northern camps are reported to have been attacked, emptied and destroyed.
The northern camps (Hitsats and Shimelba) were home to nearly 34,000 Eritreans registered with the UN before the fighting. The UN has been unable to visit these camps, but satellite photographs show them to have been extensively damaged.