United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed Thursday that nearly 11,000 refugees, half of them children, have fled from Ethiopia to Sudan.
“We are urging governments in the neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for people forced from their homes,” said UNHCR Regional Bureau Director Clementine Nkweta-Salami on Wednesday.
Violence erupted last week in Tigray involving federal and local forces, following the reported takeover of an army base in the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, after which Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive.
In the same context, Sudan reopened, Thursday, the Umm Rakobah camp in the state of Qadarif, which received in the 1980’s Ethiopians fleeing famine in their country, including Vlasha Jews before they went to Israel.
The official Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) quoted Suleiman Ali Muhammad, Mayor of al-Qadarif, as saying that the Umm Rakobah camp in the Eastern Galabat locality was designated to host refugees (coming from Ethiopia), calling on the United Nations High Commissioner to speed up preparing the camp.
Since thousands of refugees are flocking at the Sudanese border in the space of 24 hours, and the conflict seems to escalate, UNHCR projected that the number is likely to rise sharply.
“Most of those arriving at the reception center set up by the Sudanese local authorities are women, children and young people, and they appear tired and exhausted,” said an AFP photographer from a border area of Kassala state.
A Sudanese official indicated that the UNHCR had provided planes and cars to transport asylum seekers from the border to the Umm Rakobah camp, 76 kilometers inside Sudanese territory.
Ethiopian federal forces have launched an offensive in Tigray Province in northern Ethiopia since the 4th of November.
The African Union called on Tuesday for “an immediate cessation of hostilities.”
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which controls the region, has been very influential in political life in Ethiopia for three decades, and has been challenging the authority of the federal government for several months.