The United States is deeply concerned about reported attacks on Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to a State Department spokeswoman on Tuesday, and has called for the intimidation and attacks to stop.
“We are deeply concerned about credible reports of attacks on Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region by military forces affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and Tigrayan militias,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters.
In a fresh sign of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia as violence spirals, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday it was concerned about 24,000 Eritrean refugees in two camps in the Tigray region, saying they were cut off from aid and could run out of food and drinking water.
Fighting between armed groups has erupted in and around the Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps this month, with two refugees killed, according to UNHCR.
“We call on all armed actors in Tigray to stop attacks and intimidation against Eritrean forces and all refugees, asylum seekers and people displaced by the ongoing violence, as well as against the aid workers attempting to respond to the humanitarian disaster,” Porter said.
Fighting first broke out in Tigray in November when the government accused the TPLF of attacking military bases across the region – an accusation the group denied.
Three weeks later, the government declared victory when it took Mekelle, the regional capital, but the TPLF fought on and has since retaken most of Tigray.
When the TPLF retook Mekelle in late June, Ethiopian troops withdrew from most of Tigray. On humanitarian grounds, the central government declared a unilateral ceasefire.
Thousands of people have died in the fighting, approximately 2 million have been displaced, and more than 5 million are in need of emergency food assistance.