The Ethiopian Armed Forces on Thursday prevented people who fled the country’s embattled Tigray region from entering Sudan at the busiest border crossing for refugees.
Her report follows up allegations made by refugees in earlier days that Ethiopian armed forces prevented people from fleeing the deadly conflict between Ethiopian forces and regional forces in Tigray, which lasted for months.
Members of the Sudanese Armed Forces spoke on condition of anonymity for not having the authority to discuss the events, saying people tried to get from Ethiopia to Hamdayet in Sudan around 6 a.m. local time but were stopped and refugees leaving Waited on the Sudanese side, got angry and started throwing stones.
The Sudanese armed forces then cleared the area and confirmed on Thursday evening that the border crossing was closed. Around noon, the Associated Press saw more than a dozen people waiting on the Ethiopian side of the border.
Tensions on the border have increased in recent days as the influx of Ethiopians slowed from several thousand to hundreds per day. People continue to flee Ethiopia a few days after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory in the conflict, and reports of fighting in the Tigray region, largely cut off from the world, continue.
A senior Ethiopian government official who acted as spokesman during the conflict did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When the United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi was asked over the weekend about allegations of refugees blocking crossings, he said his team had not raised the issue with the Ethiopian government. But refugees told him about the “many checkpoints” and uncertainties they were exposed to on their escape.
“We haven’t heard of a systematic foreclosure,” said Grandi. “But there are certainly growing difficulties”.
More than 45,000 Ethiopians have fled to the remote area of Sudan, first incriminating the generosity of local communities and then challenging the capacity of humanitarian groups that have rushed to put in place a system to feed them from scratch, to protect and care for.
Almost half of the refugees are children, the UN has said, and many people came with nothing. Refugees have reported terrible journeys on which they fled in the heat two or three days ago and arrived on foot.
The authorities have announced that they are preparing for up to 100,000 refugees. However, the Ethiopian government has stated that it has welcomed the refugees home for reintegration and pledged their protection.
Many of the refugees, mostly ethnic Tigrayans, said it was Ethiopian forces they had fled from.
“The world is silent. You do nothing for us. You are silent,” said one refugee, Geren Hawas. “So far they haven’t done anything. It’s been a month and they haven’t done anything. The world has its laws. People die of hunger, with guns, they die. Why are they silent?”
With communications only now slowly returning to parts of the Tigray region supposedly under the control of the Ethiopian armed forces, it has been difficult to verify the warring parties’ claims or to know the extent of the devastation.
“I hear reports of thousands of deaths” from civilians and combatants, International Crisis Group analyst Will Davison told an online event Thursday. But nothing has been proven and there is “no idea what the local conflict is … there is just a huge amount that is not known”.
“There is a very high risk that we did not see the end of the violence,” said Susan Stigant of the United States Institute of Peace at the event. Earlier this week, the AP’s Tigray leader told the AP in an interview that the fighting would continue “on every front”.
The international community has advocated a dialogue, which Abiy refused, as the Ethiopian and Tigray governments consider themselves illegitimate after a power struggle since he took office two and a half years ago.
The first images from the Tigray capital Mekele, broadcast on Wednesday by the Ethiopian state media, showed residents venturing into the quiet streets while Ethiopian soldiers patrolled.
A college student, Aleme Menkussie, told the state-run Fana Broadcasting Corporate that he arrived on campus on November 4th the day before the fighting broke out.
“Then communication was cut,” said Aleme. “And since then we have been afraid and worried”.
The UN said in a humanitarian update on Mekele Thursday that “concerns for the safety of more than 500,000 people in the city and the well-being of those who are reported to depend on untreated water to survive from damage and destruction.” , The water infrastructure is growing according to media and humanitarian sources “.
Humanitarian access is finally on the verge of returning to parts of the Tigray region under the control of the Ethiopian government after the population of around 6 million became increasingly concerned about dwindling supplies of food, medicine and fuel for a month. Almost 1 million people were displaced by the fighting.
However, it is not clear how quickly help will arrive as reviews come first.