Panafrican News Agency

UNHCR says clashes in Ethiopia’s Tigray region force thousands to flee to Sudan

Khartoum, Sudan (PANA)- The UN Refugee Agency estimates over 7,000 Ethiopian refugees have registered as entering the Sudan after two days of fighting back in their country, while Sudanese authorities put the number at over 11,000 in two different states, Gadarif and Kasala, which border the troubled Tigray Regional State in Ethiopia

Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) on Friday broadcast the first video showing hundreds of Ethiopian refugees, mostly children and women, entering reception points at the border in Gadarif, looking frail and haggard.

Some of them said they were subjected to beating and they had to walk scores of kilometres before reaching safety.

In a press release received by PANA on Friday, the UNHCR said the women, children and men reaching Sudan were seeking safety after a week of fighting between the Ethiopian Federal Government and the Tigray Regional Government forces.

Inside Sudan, arriving refugees are being temporarily sheltered in transit centres located near the border entry points of Ludgi in Gederef and Hamdayet in Kasala state. Water and meals are being provided.

UNHCR and local authorities are jointly screening and registering people.

The press release said more refugee arrivals were expected in the neighbouring countries, where UNHCR was stepping up emergency relief preparedness by working with governments and partners to put in place measures to respond to additional displacements as the situation evolves.

“We are urging governments in the neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for people forced from their homes,” UNHCR Regional Bureau Director, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, said.

“While at the same time, we are asking the Ethiopian authorities to take steps that will allow us to keep providing assistance in safety to refugees and internally displaced within Tigray.”

With thousands of refugees arriving at the Sudanese border in the space of 24 hours, and with the conflict appearing to escalate, the number is likely to rise sharply. This will require a significant mobilisation of resources to address the needs of those seeking asylum.

But Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has rebuffed concerns expressed by leaders of neighbouring countries,  IGAD and the African Union (AU) saying this was a totally internal question which his government could handle without its spilling over to other countries.

“Concerns that Ethiopia will descend into chaos are unfounded and a result of not understanding our context deeply. Our rule of law enforcement operation, as a sovereign state with the capacity to manage its own internal affairs, will wrap up soon by ending the prevailing impunity,” the Ethiopian leader tweeted Thursday

He said his government's  “rule of law operation” was  aimed at guaranteeing peace and stability once and for all by bringing perpetrators of instability to justice.  

But on Friday the Sudanese media reported that more and more Ethiopians were pouring into the country saying the situation was far from being quiet in Tigray whose local leaders, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), rebelled against the federal government complaining of inequity and lack of basic freedom and participation

-0- PANA MO/AR 13Nov2020