Eritrean refugees have organised a protest in front of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) office in the capital, Addis Ababa, demanding the relocation of thousands of refugees from camps in the war-torn Tigray region.
About 300 protesters blocked a road that led to the UNHCR office, holding signs that said “Stop abuse of Eritrean refugees” and “Protect the rights of refugees.”
They also demanded basic humanitarian assistance from the UN agency and its Ethiopian counterpart – Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs for thousands of refugees who have escaped the warzone to Ethiopia.
Many of the protesters were from the refugee camps of Hitsats and Shimbella, which housed more than 30,000 refugees, but were shut down in February after being attacked in the wake of an armed rebellion in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
Thousands of Eritrean refugees have been displaced due to the rebellion since January, with many moving to the two surviving camps in Tigray, Mai Aini and Adi Harush, while others opted to return to their home country, Eritrea.
Protesters at the rally Al Jazeera spoke to said mass atrocities of looting, killing, and sexual assaults have been committed against refugees in camps of Hitsats and Shimbella under the control of the rebel Tigryan Defence Force (TDF).
In total, more than a million people have been displaced in Tigray since November 2020, when the government of Prime Miniter Abiy Ahmed deployed federal forces to the region after accusing the Tigrayan leaders of attacking an army base.