UN fears for Eritreans caught in Ethiopian conflict - GulfToday

UN fears for Eritreans caught in Ethiopian conflict


Eritrean refugees wait to get registered on arrival at the Indabaguna refugee reception and screening center in Ethiopia's Tigrai region near the Eritrean border. File/Reuters

In any conflict it is the common man or the civilian who gets hit, and hurt or killed, the most.

Almost nine years of civil war in Syria have left more than 380,000 people dead, including over 115,000 civilians.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources across the country, said they included around 22,000 children and more than 13,000 women.

Amnesty International has gathered new proof of indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Rakhine State, amid serious escalations in the ongoing armed conflict between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army (AA).

Civilian deaths have also resulted from the US military operations in Somalia and other countries in the American war on terrorism.

According to a report, people living in the war zones have been killed in all kinds of places: at homes, in markets, and on roadways. They perish when they step on a landmine or when they collect wood or tend to their fields.

In this respect, the plight of the Eritrean refugees caught in the conflict in Ethiopia needs urgent attention.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said late on Friday it had received “an overwhelming number of disturbing reports” of refugees being killed or kidnapped and forcibly returned to Eritrea, which borders Ethiopia’s battle-scarred Tigray region.

“If confirmed, these actions would constitute a major violation of international law,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Ethiopia has restricted access to Tigray, where aid groups fear a humanitarian disaster is unfolding, and the UN has not been able to reach four refugee camps housing nearly 100,000 Eritreans since fighting began between federal and regional forces on November 4.

The International Rescue Committee said on Friday that one of its staff members was killed last month at a refugee camp for Eritreans in Tigray. The Danish Refugee Council, which also assists the Eritreans, said three of its guards were killed, but did not specify where.

The UN says food has now run out for the nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea, who have been sheltering in camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, which has been cut off from the world for nearly a month amid fighting.

If the camps run out of food supplies then malnutrition becomes a real danger.

Wednesday marks a month since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that fighting had erupted in the Tigray region between federal forces and regional ones.

Communications and transport links to the Tigray region of 6 million people have been severed, and the UN and others have pleaded for access to deliver badly needed food, medicines and other supplies.

Humanitarian agencies have warned of drastic supply shortages and appealed for urgent access to assist the Eritreans and an estimated 600,000 others in Tigray who were dependent on food rations before the conflict even began.

Ethiopia said on Friday it was returning “misinformed” Eritrean refugees making their way south to Addis Ababa back to the camps in Tigray to receive aid and live “lawfully and peacefully.”

“Forcibly sending Eritrean refugees back to camps in Tigray places them at unnecessary risk of harm and hunger,” Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director for Human Rights Watch, said.

Abiy Ahmed, the winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, on Friday said his government would be in charge of handling the humanitarian response in Tigray.

An agreement last week to allow the UN and aid agencies access to Tigray foundered before a new deal was brokered on Wednesday.

Abiy declared the fighting in Tigray over on November 28. Thousands have been killed, according to the International Crisis Group think tank, and around 50,000 people have fled to refugee camps across the border in Sudan.

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