25,000 Ethiopians flee to Sudan

Tigray leader claims responsibility for strikes on Eritrea

November 15, 2020 09:34 pm | Updated 09:34 pm IST - Khartoum

Refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia wait to register at the UNCHR center at Hamdayet, Sudan.

Refugees from the Tigray region of Ethiopia wait to register at the UNCHR center at Hamdayet, Sudan.

Around 25,000 Ethiopians fleeing conflict in the Tigray region have crossed into neighbouring Sudan, state news agency SUNA reported, as the UN said it was working to find them shelter.

“The number of Ethiopian refugees who have arrived in Gadaref and Kassala states since Saturday has reached 24,944,” the agency said.

Sudan’s commissioner for refugees Abdullah Suleiman toured the border region on Saturday with UN refugee agency assistant representative in Sudan Jan Hansmann to discuss the influx.

Mr. Hansmann, quoted by SUNA, said the priority of the UNHCR was to provide the refugees with shelter, food and water and then to transfer them to regions far from the border “for security reasons”.

He said the UN refugee agency was working to establish new camps in Sudan for the Ethiopians.

Sudan has already said it would shelter thousands of Ethiopians fleeing the conflict at the Um Raquba camp, which in the 1980s hosted thousands of Ethiopian fleeing famine.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Tigray region on Sunday claimed responsibility for rocket strikes on the airport in neighbouring Eritrea’s capital, a move that ratcheted up fears of a wider conflict in the Horn of Africa region.

Diplomats told AFP on Saturday night that multiple rockets had struck the capital, Asmara, landing near the airport, though communications restrictions in Tigray and Eritrea made the reports difficult to verify.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced November 4 he had ordered military operations in Tigray in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

“Ethiopian forces are also using the airport of Asmara,” TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said, saying this made the airport a “legitimate target” for the strikes.

He said the UN refugee agency was working to establish new camps in Sudan for the Ethiopians.

Some arrived on scooters and other cycled, while others boarded makeshift boats to cross a river into Sudan to flee intense fighting at home.

Suleiman called on the international community to pitch in with aid for the refugees.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced November 4 he had ordered military operations in Tigray in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

UNHCR said it expected the number of refugees to grow if the conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia worsens.

The leader of the Tigray region on Sunday claimed responsibility for rocket strikes on the airport of neighbouring Eritrea’s capital, sparking fears that the conflict could widen.

A Sudanese government source said up to 200,000 Ethiopians could seek shelter in Sudan.

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