The recently concluded military operation in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray regional state “was not a direct threat to the Eritrean refugees” residing within and outside refugee camps in the region, the Ethiopian government has affirmed.
“The recently concluded law enforcement military operation by the federal government in the Tigray region was not a direct threat to the Eritrean refugees who are living within and outside the camps,” the state of emergency task force, which was established by the Ethiopian government to watch over the military operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said in a statement on late Friday.
Noting that the East African country has “a very long and cherished history of hospitality and generosity” to people who are forcibly displaced due to man-made and natural calamities, the state of emergency task force stressed that the Ethiopian government is presently providing protection to nearly one million refugees mainly from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan, who are being hosted across 26 camps and non-camp locations.
The majority of refugees in Ethiopia live in camps. The Ethiopian government through its “Out of Camp Policy” has also entitled refugees and asylum seekers to live in places of their choice outside refugee camps or settlements including in the capital, Addis Ababa provided that they cover their full costs by themselves.
Despite the opportunities offered by the “Out of Camp Policy” that enables refugees to be productive and enjoy normal life among the community, the Ethiopian government stressed that the procedure to apply for out of camp life “needs to be processed in the camps in the interest of accountability and qualification purpose.”
The Ethiopia refugee operation is now home to close to 200,000 Eritrean refugees across the country, most of them are mainly sheltered in Tigray and Afar regional states as well as in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Tigray regional state, which hosts majority of Eritrean refugees, has been over the past month hit with conflict following the Ethiopian federal government’s military operations against the TPLF that used to rule the Tigray region following TPLF’s attack on the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Defense Forces on late Nov. 3.
The Ethiopian government, however, stressed that “a large number of misinformed Eritrean refugees are moving out in an irregular manner particularly from Mai-Ayni and Adi-Harush refugee camps to Addis Ababa.”
It also stressed that the government is “working tirelessly” to fully reactivate and continue provision of critical lifesaving services to the refugees as well as to ensure a safe and secured operating environment for frontline responders.
Noting that such unregulated movements of the refugees with high dependence on aid creates difficulties in ensuring their safety, security, dignity, and in providing a coordinated protection and assistance, it also emphasized that “the refugees were kept in a dignified manner and sheltered and nurtured by the government, given the priority the government gives to humanitarian assistance.”
It also affirmed that transportation of food to the camps is underway, as the areas hosting Eritrean refugee camps in the Tigray region “are stable given that they are under the full control of the federal government.”
It further indicated that the Ethiopian government is safely returning refugees to their respective camps where they can have access to service delivery systems, “and more importantly they can live lawfully and peacefully with the communities that host them.”
In addition to Eritrean refugees residing in the region, Ethiopians residing in Tigray regional state have been also affected by the ongoing fighting, in which more than 50,000 people have also fled into Ethiopia’s neighboring Sudan seeking safety, according to the United Nations.
On Friday, the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office said that humanitarian aid is actively provided across affected areas in the region.
Recalling the formation of a high-level national committee to oversee humanitarian assistance led by the Ethiopian Ministry of Peace during the early stages of the military operations, the Office said that batches of food and non-food items had been dispatched to areas within the region following field technical assessments made by the committee.
The Ethiopian government had also recently signed an agreement with the United Nations for an enhanced coordination mechanism of humanitarian access in the conflict-hit Tigray region. Enditem