Refugees in Camp in Tigray Attacked and Robbed by Criminals: The Ethiopian Government is Doing Nothing to Protect Them

Source: Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

23 December 2020

Criminal armed assailants have free access to Eritrean Refugees in Adi Harush, the UNHCR Refugee camp at in the Tigray Regional State of Ethiopia, and are attacking and robbing refugees unimpeded by the Ethiopian military and government, in what has become a regular pattern of criminal behaviour. The Ethiopian military have not allowed UNHCR staff to return to the camps. 

A constitutional dispute between the leaders of the Northern province of Tigray (The TPLF) and the Federal Government of Ethiopia escalated into full-scale war last month when the Ethiopian Prime Minister sent the federal army into Tigray to impose a state of emergency by force. Federal troops now claim to be in control of  the province. All communications have been severed within Tigray, and roads are closed to all traffic except the military.

On 21st December 2020, hundreds of refugees in the Adi Harush camp were peacefully going about their everyday lives when, at about 8 p.m, six armed men entered the camp with the deliberate intention of harassing, intimidating, and robbing them. Some of the refugees were charging their mobile phones in a shop. The armed men warned the refugees not to move, and proceeded to take all of the mobile phones. Around 200 mobile phones were seized by the assailants, who then left the camp. For the refugees, mobile phones are an important means of connecting  with relatives and friends at this hugely dangerous time. They do not have the money to replace their phones, and have no other means of communication with the outside world.

This is not the first time such attacks have happened at Adi Harush camp. In fact, they have become a recurring event. UNHCR staff, who should be supervising the camp, have not been allowed to return to the camps by the Ethiopian military, and the Ethiopian Government has not provided the refugees with any protection. Eritrean refugees are not allowed to leave the camp, and are therefore “sitting targets” for attacks by lawless armed men, as the Ethiopian military appear to be making no attempts to control them, or to defend the refugees.  Consequently, the refugees in Adi Harush camp live in constant state of fear and are also clearly in danger. They hear shelling and gunfire around the camp, but are trapped inside, unprotected.

Elizabeth Chyrum, Director of Human Rights Concern-Eritrea (HRCE) commented: “The welfare and safety of all refugees in the UNHCR camps in Tigray province is first and foremost the responsibility of the Ethiopian government, and ought to be guaranteed by the Ethiopian Federal armed forces. It is clear that, in contempt of all international treaties regarding the treatment of refugees in their host country, the Ethiopian government and military are leaving the occupants of Adi Harush and the other three camps without any protection, and exposed to criminal gangs who attack, plunder and rob at will. It is essential that the Ethiopian government takes the following steps immediately: –

  • Order federal military to surround and guard the camps, and to prevent any unauthorised armed persons from entering them.
  • Ensure the immediate safe return of UNHCR staff to supervise the camps.
  • Enable the transport of food and medical provisions to the camps by establishing safe corridors.
  • Ensure that communications are re-established between the camps and the outside world.
  • Trace, track and arrest the criminal armed assailants who entered to Adi Harush, and restore the stolen phones to their owners.”


Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

+44 7958 005 637

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