RCUSA calls for the protection of refugees from Tigray

Washington, DC—As we begin this new year, we are sadly reminded that deadly conflict and massive displacement around the world are ongoing.

Tigray, a region in Ethiopia with a population of seven million people, was also home to 96,000 Eritrean refugees and 100,000 internally displaced people. Since early November, political conflict in Tigray between the federal and regional governments has erupted into insecurity and violence. The involvement of forces from neighboring Eritrea raise additional alarm.

We are particularly concerned by the conflict’s mounting humanitarian toll. There have been reports of civilians being targeted and killed, including aid workers, and refugees abducted.

UNHCR reports that nearly 57,500 people have fled the region for Sudan, as of Jan. 12, some recounting horrific experiences. News outlets report that refugee camps in Tigray have been attacked and supplies looted, with some Eritrean refugees forced to return to Eritrea despite international conventions prohibiting refoulement. And amidst continued conflict, many more people in Tigray have been internally displaced or are in need of aid.

The full scale of the conflict remains unknown, though, due to government-imposed restrictions. As a result, at least one RCUSA member organization that has worked to assist those displaced has had no contact with local staff since November. It is incumbent on the Ethiopian Government to provide unfettered access for humanitarian aid and to restore communications in the region. The government must uphold its obligation to the safe passage, return, and long-term safety of Ethiopians who have fled to Sudan, and protect Eritrean refugees within its borders and people who are internally displaced.

“RCUSA stands in support of its members, and all humanitarian aid workers, to condemn violence against civilians and refugees,” said Adam Hunter, Executive Director of Refugee Council USA. “The parties must always protect civilians, uphold refugee rights, and allow aid workers unfettered access to conduct their life-saving work.”

RCUSA is a diverse coalition advocating for just and humane laws and policies, and the promotion of dialogue and communication among government, civil society, and those who need protection and welcome. Individual RCUSA members do not all address all refugee-related issues, nor do all individual members approach common refugee-related issues identically.

Media Contact: Sarah Seniuk, sseniuk@rcusa.org