ROME, 14 July 2021 – The leader of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, says he has received credible reports of reprisal attacks against Eritrean refugees.
The refugees have been arrested or abducted apparently for their perceived affiliation with one of the two sides in the bloody war between federal Ethiopian forces and fighters of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Grandi described the reports as “credible and corroborated”.
He said the attacks have been perpetrated against refugees by numerous armed players in the Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps.
Most of the attacks have occurred under the cover of darkness.
Grandi has asked authorities in Mekelle, capital of Ethiopia’s northern zone of Tigray, to explain why Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers have been rounded up.
Both leaders of the TPLF and of the Ethiopian federal government have called on both sides to initiate formal investigations into all credible allegations of wrongdoing.
Ethiopian federal forces first went into Tigray last November 4. The war in the northern region has claimed thousands of people, leaving hundreds of thousands of people internally displaced.
After early claims that federal forces had won the war in Tigray, TPLF fighters have regained ground.
Latest reports say TPLF fighters have seized two more major towns” Korem and Alamata.
Some of the fighting has occurred in refugee camps.
The United Nations has called for the reopening of two airports in the area – Mekelle and Shire – to help accelerate assistance reaching a maximum number of internally displaced persons; notably those on the brink of famine.
The UNHCR estimates that close to 100,000 Eritrea refugees live in camps in the Tigray region.