UN refugee agency relocates 5,474 stranded Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Thursday said it has relocated 5,474 stranded Eritrean refugees to Mai Aini and Adi-Harush refugee camps in northern Ethiopia.

“Thousands of Eritrean refugees, who were stranded in the town of Shire-Indaselassie and surrounding areas after fleeing Hitsats and Shimelba refugee camps continue to be relocated to Mai Aini and Adi-Harush camps,” said a statement by the agency.

“To date, 5,474 refugees have been relocated to the two camps, but lack of adequate shelter and communal facilities remains a major concern,” said the statement.

The Eritrean refugee relocation operation is being implemented entirely in Ethiopia’s northern conflict-hit Tigray regional state. UNHCR further disclosed additional shelters are being constructed with the eventual plan of hosting up to 15,000 Eritrean refugees in total.

Weeks of fighting in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which used to rule the region until November and the Ethiopian Defense Forces has left hundreds of people dead, thousands displaced and millions in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, media reported.

In January, Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) announced plans to close Hitsats and Shimelba refugee camps and relocate up to 20,000 refugees that were previously sheltered in the two camps.

Hitsats and Shimelba refugee camps were reportedly heavily damaged in the conflict, leaving thousands of Eritrean refugees dispersed in nearby towns and other areas. Ethiopia is home to around 200,000 Eritrean refugees with most of them sheltered in Tigray and Afar regional states as well as in the capital, Addis Ababa, according to figures from the Ethiopian government.

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