USCRI Calls for Coordinated and Expedited International Action on Eritrean Refugees

By USCRI January 7, 2022

According to UNHCR, three Eritrean refugees were killed in an airstrike that hit the Mai Aini refugee camp in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray. “We are dismayed by the seemingly deliberate targeting of refugees in this attack,” says USCRI President and CEO Eskinder Negash. “This affirms a call our organization has long been making for the UNHCR and the international community to prioritize Eritrean refugees for resettlement in a third country.”

USCRI previously demanded that both the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments be held accountable for the lives of the 20,000 Eritrean refugees that went missing late in 2020, and that remaining Eritrean refugees be swiftly patriated to a safe third country. There is strong evidence that some of the missing were detained, killed, or forcibly repatriated to Eritrea in violation of international refugee law, as Ethiopia is party to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention), and the 1967 UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. To date, the international community has failed to hold either country accountable, and has not prioritized the protection of the Eritrean refugee population in Ethiopia.

Though the logistical challenges of reaching these refugees and resettling them in more secure territory are staggering, as one of the most vulnerable groups in this devastating conflict, Eritrean refugees must be protected and safely resettled for their personal security and wellbeing. Without coordinated and expedited UNHCR and international action toward this goal, more innocent refugees will perish in the crossfire and the trauma for this disproportionately young refugee population will only deepen.

USCRI has a long history—nearly four decades— of working with Eritreans fleeing violence and persecution. USCRI board members, senior staff, and policy analysts have visited refugee camps and published several issue papers. In December 2015, USCRI undertook a factfinding mission and published a report titled Forgotten Refugees: Eritrean Children in Northern Tigray. As it has done in the past, USCRI will continue to follow the developments in the crisis of Eritreans fleeing violence and persecution.

For over 110 years, advancing the rights and lives of refugees and immigrants.

For press inquiries, please contact: aplazasrocha@uscrimail.org

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