Aid group Refugees International has expressed concern about the reported relocation of more than 100 Eritrean refugees from areas near Addis Ababa to camps on the unstable border between Ethiopia’s Amhara and Tigray regions.
Ethiopian authorities are accused of targeting Eritrean refugees by arresting them in the capital and sending them back to the country’s restive north.
Abdullahi Halakhe is the Refugees International senior advocate for East and Southern Africa.
“For the last few days, Eritrean refugees who have been living in Ethiopia for some time now and so the government rounded up these refugees who are in Addis Ababa and (put them) in several buses and took them back to Amhara region. The Amhara region and the Tigray region border each other and there is tension,” said Halakhe.
Amhara and Tigrayan forces have been fighting over land and other long-standing disputes.
About 20,000 Eritrean refugees lived in two refugee camps in the Tigray region before the war between Ethiopia’s government and Tigrayan rebels broke out in November 2020.
After Eritrean and Tigrayan forces allegedly attacked the camps, many of the refugees fled to the Amhara and Afar regions, with others moving to the capital Addis Ababa.
In late 2020, Ethiopian authorities carried out a similar operation targeting Eritrean refugees in the capital, sending them to Adi Harush and Mai Ani in the Tigray region at the height of the war.
Halakhe said in many ways, Eritrean refugees are the most vulnerable group in Ethiopia.
“They are caught between the Eritrean government tracking them because it paints a bad image about their country and the warring parties inside Ethiopia also targeting them, as such they are probably most difficult position, so death, sexual violence, and so many other egregious human rights and humanitarian violations have been visited upon them,” said Halakhe.
Last year Human Rights Watch said Eritrean forces and Tigray militias committed killings, rape and other abuses against Eritrean refugees.
Ethiopia hosts at least 140,000 Eritreans who fled hardship and persecution in their home country.
Refugees International, an organization which promotes human rights and the protection of refugees, is calling on Ethiopian authorities to respect its laws and protect Eritrean refugees from those who wish to harm them.