UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi has urged Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy to address reports of abduction of some of the 100,000 Eritrean refugees near Tigray border.

Ethiopian refugees are seen at the Um Rakuba refugee camp, which houses refugees fleeing fighting in Tigray region, on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Sudan. November 29, 2020.
Ethiopian refugees are seen at the Um Rakuba refugee camp, which houses refugees fleeing fighting in Tigray region, on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Sudan. November 29, 2020. (Reuters)

Ethiopia’s announcement that it has completed its military offensive in Tigray region “does not mean the conflict is finished”, the UN has warned, raising concerns over the fate of nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees there amid reports that some have been abducted.

If confirmed, such treatment of refugees in camps close to the Tigray border with Eritrea “would be major violations of international norms,” UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said. 

“It is my strong appeal for the prime minister of Ethiopia for this situation to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” he said on Sunday. 

Nearly a month of fighting between Ethiopian federal forces and Tigray regional ones has threatened to destabilise Ethiopia, the linchpin of the strategic Horn of Africa, and its neighbours. 

The involvement of Eritrea in the conflict has been alleged by refugees and the now-fugitive Tigray leaders but, like much in the sealed-off region, has not been verified.

Hospitals short on supplies, body bags

Meanwhile, in a rare report from inside Tigray's capital Mekele, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said a major hospital in northern Ethiopia, Ayder Referral Hospital, is lacking body bags while some 80 percent of its patients have trauma injuries.

“The influx of wounded forced the hospital to suspend many other medical services so that limited staff and resources could be devoted to emergency medical care,” it said.

Hospitals and health centres in the Tigray region are running “dangerously low” on supplies to care for the wounded, it added. 

Food is also running low, the result of the Tigray region being cut off from outside aid for almost a month.

READ MORE: UN urges civilian protection as Ethiopia warns of ‘no mercy’ in assault

The ICRC also said 1,000 Eritrean refugees have arrived in Mekele from their refugee camps near the Eritrean border, looking for food and other help.

Eritrea – which watchdogs call one of the world’s most repressive countries – has remained almost silent on the allegations by the Tigray regional leaders that it has been involved in the conflict at the invitation of Ethiopia and its Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose government has denied it.

Overnight, the US Embassy in Eritrea said six explosions were heard in the capital, Asmara. It followed an embassy report of another “loud noise, possibly an explosion” on Friday, nearly two weeks after the Tigray regional leader confirmed firing missiles at the city.

READ MORE: Tigray forces claim downing Ethiopian military plane, retaking Axum town

Source: AP