Security in Ethiopian refugee camps is almost non-existent

Portrait of an elderly woman in Ethiopia  Portrait of an elderly woman in Ethiopia Photo by Matthew Spiteri on Unsplash

01 february 2021

The Ethiopian Prime Minister struggles to end the conflict in the region of Tigray that is rendering Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia vulnerable. 

When fighting erupted in November between Abiy's government and the regional ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea, were registered in four camps in Tigray. The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for almost thirty years — it was in power when Ethiopia and Eritrea fought a border war that killed tens of thousands.  

In 2018, Abiy took office and initiated a surprise rapprochement with Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki. Despite ethiopian efforts, Afewerki and the TPLF still represent a dangerous enemy to Ethiopia and a risk for Eritrean refugees themselves.

Two of the camps where Eritrean refugees settled, Hitsats and Shimelba, were caught up in the clashes and remain inaccessible to the United Nations refugee agency. However not only Eritrean refugees are in danger because of TPLF militiamen, they are also endangered by the continued meddling of Eritrean soldiers, as a consequence of the fighting between the Eritrean government and the Ethiopian one. Indeed, Eritrean forces assumed control of Hitsats refugee camp back in early January: Pro-TPLF forces established themselves out of Hitsats for weeks, forbidding starving residents from going out in search of food and killing the desperate ones who tried anyway. The UN reported targeted killings and abductions by Eritrean soldiers, while some refugees informed aboutseveral other abuses, like arresting dozens of people and deporting them to an unknown destination. 

The refugees who managed to escape from Hitsats found shelter in Mai Aini, another refugee camp, which seems to be more efficiently protected; however, the new residents’ fears did not dissolve,  as a result many young refugees still struggle to fall asleep in fear of waking up in another nightmare. 


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Author: Benedetta Spizzichino; Editor: Eleonora Gonnelli


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