Eritrean refugees in Ethiopian capital protest insecurity at Tigray camps

Hundreds of Eritrean refugees protested in the Ethiopian capital on Thursday, calling on the United Nations refugee agency to relocate friends and family who they say are trapped in two refugee camps by fighting in the Tigray region.

Clashes between armed groups have escalated
in and around the camps – Mai Aini and Adi Harush-and two refugees have been killed this
month, the UNHCR said on Tuesday.

The agency said it lost access to the camps on July 14. The United States said on Tuesday it was deeply concerned about the fate of Eritrean refugees in Tigray. “We need UNHCR to move (the refugees) from the camp because the area is a war zone, said Hermon Hailu, 22, an Eritrean refugee participating in the protest in the capital Addis Ababa.

He later added he was worried about his mother in Mai Aini camp whom he had not been able to reach by phone for weeks. The UNHCR said on Tuesday it had relocated about 100 refugees from the two sites and was in discussions with Tigrayan authorities to secure safe passage out of the camps for others.

Recall that Conflict broke out between the Ethiopian central government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November with the government seizing control of the regional capital Mekelle three weeks later and declaring victory. But the TPLF kept fighting and retook Mekelle along with most of Tigray at the end of June after government soldiers withdrew.

The refugee camps, which have existed for years and house Eritreans who have fled repression in their home country, were caught up in violence that now threatens to escalate.
In the wake of the TPLF’s successful counter
offensive, Ethiopia’s other nine regions have
pledged to send forces to support the military
against the Tigrayan fighters.

Demonstrators on Tuesday held a banner
reading “Protect the rights of Eritrean refugees”. Medihn Mehari wept as she recalled the death of her infant son shortly after he was born, just after war broke out last year in Tigray.

She said she fled to safety in Addis Ababa from
Hitsats, another refugee camp in Tigray, in
January, but did not know where her husband
was. “We want those who are there to leave the camp,” she said. “I don’t want the same thing to happen to them, she said.

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