On 27th February, armed men entered Mai Aini refugee camp and terrorised the inhabitants all night.
2nd March 2021
At about 1:20a.m. on 27th February 2021, armed men entered in Mai Aini refugee camp in Tigray and terrorised the refugees with gunshots. The militia harassed, attacked, robbed, and injured the refugees. One refugee’s fingers were chopped off with an axe and refugees’ mobiles, clothes and other belongings were stolen. Their assailants went from door to door, forcing the refugees to open their doors, and using forces to enter when entry was refused. They ordered some refugees to lie on the floor, threatened to shoot them, and physically harmed others. The armed men terrorised the camp until 5:30 a.m.
The refugees tried to call the Federal Ethiopian Police for help, but the police did not arrive until after the assailants had left. The refugees are extremely worried and in fear of their lives. The camps are clearly not safe, as no constant protection is being provided by the Ethiopian authorities.
According to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, the war in Tigray ended in 2020, and without civilian casualties. However, this is now known to be wholly untrue. Tigray is still extremely unsafe, especially for civilians. It is now widely acknowledged that the Eritrean armed forces have been in Tigray since the start of the conflict, and have been involved in some horrific violations, including massacres of hundreds of defenceless civilians and the enforced mass deportation at gunpoint of up to 20,000 Eritrean refugees from the now destroyed Shimelba and Hitsats Refugee camps to the very country they fled from. HRCE has received credible information from those who were forcibly returned to Eritrea, who said that on arrival, they were forced to sign a document stating they were voluntarily repatriated to Eritrea.
The safety of refugees in Tigray is the direct responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which has left the camps in Southern Tigray without protection, and appears to have no control over the Eritrean forces and the armed militia operating in Southern Tigray.
Human Rights Concern-Eritrea therefore recommends the following: –
- It is vital that the government of Ethiopia and the UNHCR provide protection to the Eritrean refugees in Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps urgently, and ensure no further harm can come to the inhabitants.
- The international community must put pressure on the government of Ethiopia to guarantee the safety of all refugees in its territories, both in Tigray and in the rest of Ethiopia.
- It is very important that international pressure, including from the UN and other bodies such as the African Union, is exerted on the government of Eritrea to withdraw all its military forces from Tigray immediately.
- An independent and impartial international investigation into crimes committed in Tigray by all forces must now be launched without delay.
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)