Some 5,000 Ethiopian refugees are expected to cross into Sudan in the coming days, a Sudanese official says, as world marks 70th anniversary of 1951 Refugee Convention amid worsening refugee crisis.

A woman displaced by the ongoing violence carries an infant inside a temporary shelter at the Shire campus of Aksum University in the town of Shire, Tigray region, in March 2021.
A woman displaced by the ongoing violence carries an infant inside a temporary shelter at the Shire campus of Aksum University in the town of Shire, Tigray region, in March 2021. (Baz Ratner / Reuters)

Some 5,000 Ethiopian refugees are expected to cross into Sudan in the coming days, a Sudanese official has told the AFP news agency, the latest wave fleeing conflict in the Tigray and Amhara regions.

Earlier this week, 3,000 Ethiopians crossed into neighbouring Sudan, taking the total of Ethiopian refugees in the North African nation to nearly 60,000.

"We expect around 5,000 asylum seekers to arrive in the next 48 hours given the escalating fighting," a Sudanese official told AFP on Wednesday in Sudan's eastern Kassala region, close to the Ethiopian border.

Refugees drown in river

Heavy rains have seen the river that marks the border swell with flood waters, with three Ethiopians drowning on Tuesday as they tried to cross, the Sudanese official said.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into northern Tigray region last November to oust its ruling party, a decision he said was in response to attacks on federal army camps.

The conflict has already killed thousands of people and more than 400,000 have been pushed into famine, according to the United Nations.

Ethiopia's northern Amhara and Tigray regions are embroiled in a decades-old land dispute that has become central to the eight-month-old war in Tigray.

On Friday, the UN's World Food Programme said it was "extremely concerned" about the humanitarian situation in Tigray, where severe shortages of food and supplies are taking their toll.

It called for unimpeded access into Tigray to reach the four million people facing acute food insecurity and needing emergency assistance.

READ MORE: Thousands of refugees from Ethiopia's Amhara cross into Sudan

UN Convention anniversary

The refugee crisis comes as the UN marked the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention, a key international treaty outlining the rights of people forced to flee, as well as the legal obligations of states towards them.

The majority of refugees across the world flee to neighbouring countries.

Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, expressed concern at recent attempts by some governments to disregard or circumvent the Convention's principles, citing expulsions and pushbacks of refugees and asylum seekers at land and sea borders as well as proposals to forcibly transfer them to third states for processing without adequate protection guarantees. 

"Thanks to the Convention, millions of lives have been saved. Seventy years since it was drawn up, it is crucial that the international community defends its principles," Grandi said in a statement.

Refugee numbers are growing as very few conflicts end, Eirik Christophersen of Norwegian Refugee Council told TRT World

"The world is unable" to end refugee crisis, he said. 

READ MORE: Tigray assault on Ethiopia's Afar causes heavy casualties, displacement

Source: AFP