ADDIS ABABA: Fighting in northern Ethiopia’s Afar region has “engulfed” a camp housing refugees from neighboring Eritrea, killing five people and forcing thousands to flee.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is working with the Ethiopian authorities and partners to provide emergency aid to thousands of Eritrean refugees who fled the Barahle refugee camp and its environs in the Afar region after fighting engulfed the area.
Refugees who trekked the long distance to the regional capital in Semera told UNHCR staff that armed men entered the camp on 3 February, stole their belongings, and occupied their homes. According to their testimonies, at least five refugees were killed and several women were kidnapped. Family members lost one another in the chaos of fleeing the camp.
So far, over 4,000 refugees are in Semera where UNHCR together with Ethiopia’s Government Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) and other partners are providing immediate support with shelter, relief items, food as well as clean water. We have also set up protection desks where the most vulnerable among the refugees, including separated children and others with specific needs, are being identified and provided with support.
Around 10,000 refugees are also reported to be living in Afdera town, approximately 225 kilometers from Semera. Others are also believed to have fled towards the towns of Altefa and Dabure, further inland.
The government has identified a temporary site in Serdo town, 40 kilometers from Semera, where UNHCR, RRS and partners are making preparations in order to quickly relocate refugees.
With yet another refugee camp severely impacted, UNHCR remains extremely worried about the safety and wellbeing of thousands of Eritrean refugees caught up in the conflict.
We condemn the attack on the refugee camp and reiterate the call for the cessation of hostilities to avoid further destruction and potential loss of life for refugees and Ethiopians alike, and so that much-needed humanitarian assistance can reach them.
There are also large numbers of internally displaced Ethiopians in the Afar region, including some 300,000 uprooted by the recent fighting.
UNHCR will continue its efforts to support the Ethiopian government in its response to refugees and displaced populations affected by the conflict.