Evidence Mounts of Eritrean Troops Abducting and Forcibly Returning Eritrean Refugees from Camps in Tigray

Source: Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

14 December 2020

Eye-witness testimony is emerging confirming reports that the Eritrean military are entering refugee camps in Tigray, attacking Eritrean refugees, and forcibly returning large numbers of them to Eritrea. Many of these refugees were deliberately shot and seriously injured, and are recovering in hospitals in Eritrea, where they have been taken against their will. 

A constitutional dispute between the leaders of the Northern province of Tigray, The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Federal Government of Ethiopia escalated into full-scale war last month when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the Federal army into Tigray to impose a State of Emergency. Federal troops now occupy the province’s towns and capital city. All communications have been severed within Tigray, so no news channels are open and roads are closed to all traffic except the military.

Eritrean refugees in Adi Harush camp are living in terror, since armed people have been entering the camp, harassing them and taking their belongings.

From Hitsats camp eye-witnesses report that towards the end of November about 10-armed people came into camp and started shooting at random. Many people were shot; some are seriously injured, and some died. The injured were loaded into trucks and forcibly returned to Eritrea. Several of the injured were hospitalised in Barentu hospital in Eritrea.  Two died from their injuries, while 32 others are still receiving treatment in the hospital. Other refugees who sustained serious injuries from gunfire at Hitsats camp were taken to Glass Military hospital in Keren, Eritrea.

Several sources in Eritrea have confirmed that refugees from Tigray continue to be forcibly returned by Eritrean soldiers and brought to different parts of the country since the war started.Refugees who have been rounded up by Eritrean soldiers from the camps in Tigray (possibly from Hitsats and Shimelba) are arriving in considerable numbers. On Thursday, 10th December, five large “dumper” or “tipper” trucks full of refugees were brought back to Eritrea, again escorted by soldiers. Three of these trucks full of refugees were taken to Shambuko, and subsequently two of the vehicles were taken to Shilalo. The refugees are presently being detained there.

Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of Human Rights Concern-Eritrea, commented: –                                    

“There is now no doubt that the Eritrean military are not only present in Tigray but have been allowed a free hand by the Ethiopian authorities to do whatever they wish with Eritrean refugees in Tigray, including forcibly returning them to the very country they fled from in fear of their lives.

What is being perpetrated against Eritrean refugees in Tigray is a crime on a massive scale. The Eritrean military’s unacknowledged presence in Tigray is part of a criminal conspiracy to forcibly repatriate Eritrean refugees to the country they fled from, where imprisonment, torture and possible death await them, as the UN Commission of Inquiry into Human Rights in Eritrea bore witness. Such forcible return of helpless refugees utterly violatesfundamental principles of international refugee treaties, including the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol on Non-Refoulement.

The international community MUST take notice of this imminent threat and recognise the very real danger to all Eritreans in Ethiopia. They MUST NOT be forcibly returned (or “refouled”) to the country from which they fled because of persecution.  

It is vital that UN Member states warn the government of Ethiopia that it is complicit in criminal acts by the military forces of Eritrea in Tigray.  

The government of Ethiopia must be reminded of its international legal duty to protect all who claim sanctuary in its territory and its urgent obligation to provide food and medical care to the remaining refugees in the camps in Tigray, who are now threatened with death from starvation unless the government of Ethiopia takes immediate action to ensure food and supplies reach them.”


Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)


+44 7958 005 637


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