Panafrican News Agency

Ethiopian crisis: UNHCR says Eritrean refugees in Tigray caught up in conflict

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) - The UN refugee agency has expressed extreme worry about the fate of thousands of Eritrean refugees currently trapped in two refugee camps in Ethiopia’s Tigray region as fighting between armed groups escalates in and around the camps.

The Spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Babar Baloch said an estimated 24,000 Eritrean refugees in Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps in Tigray’s Mai Tsebri area are facing intimidation and harassment and living in constant anguish, cut off from humanitarian assistance.

"We have received disturbing and credible reports in recent days from Mai Aini camp that at least one refugee was killed by armed elements operating inside the camp," he said at a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

This latest death is in addition to the killing of another refugee on 14 July, Mr. Baloch said.

UNHCR implored all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international law, including respecting the civilian character of refugee camps, and the rights of refugees and all civilians to be protected from hostilities.

"Our staff have lost all access to the refugee camps for the last two weeks. Trapped refugees need urgent life-saving assistance. Clean drinking water is running out, no healthcare services are available and hunger is a real danger," Baloch said.

He added that the last food distribution to both camps was done in late June, providing rations for one month.

According to UNHCR, recent armed clashes have also displaced thousands of people in the Afar region that borders Tigray region to the east and where an additional 55,000 Eritrean refugees are hosted.

It said there are reports of armed confrontations close to the locations where they live.

Mr. Baloch said the main humanitarian supply road between Semera in Afar and Mekelle in Tigray has been completely blocked since 18 July and UNHCR supplies, like those of other agencies, are stranded in Semera.

"UNHCR urges all parties to the conflict to give immediate humanitarian access and safety for aid workers attempting to provide life-saving assistance," Mr. Baloch said.

-0- PANA MA 28July2021