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Tigray Refugees in Sudan Say it’s Not Safe to Return to Ethiopia

Ethiopian refugees who fled Tigray region, sit inside a makeshift shelter within the Um-Rakoba camp in Al-Qadarif state, on the border, in Sudan, Dec. 11, 2020.

Sudan is hosting more than 50,000 refugees who have fled the recent fighting in Ethiopia's Tigray region. Despite the Ethiopian government's announcement that fighting in Tigray is over, many of the refugees say it is not safe enough to return home.

Tens of thousands of Ethiopians have arrived in eastern Sudan since early November, fleeing the conflict between the Ethiopian government and regional forces in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.

Tigray Refugees in Sudan Say It’s Not Safe to Return Home
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Sudanese authorities have placed the refugees in two camps and are planning to build more as Ethiopians continue to stream across the border.

Many international and local organizations have assisted the refugees with basic needs like food and water.

Some of the refugees have stayed in the border villages of Hashaba and Hamdaiet, living with relatives or Sudanese families.

However, Sudanese authorities want to send all the refugees to the Um Rakouba camp south of Qadarif city, where they say it is safer because it's far from the tense border.

This is Rasheed Aldaw, the acting director of Hashaba camp.

He says the refugees feel safe and prefer to stay here, but from a security point of view this area is very close to the border. He says the Sudanese government will not allow them to stay in the border area because it is tense.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that fighting in Tigray is over after the federal troops seized control of the Tigray regional capital, Mekelle.

Abiy called on the Ethiopian refugees in Sudan to return home, but camp residents say it's too soon.

Haminat Dibrsyo says she would only return home if it’s safe and secured, but as long as it’s not safe yet, she will stay with her children in Sudan.

People who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, arrive on a bus at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Nov. 26, 2020.
People who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, arrive on a bus at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Nov. 26, 2020.

Ellol Gabriot and his family also say they do not plan to return and that the war is not over.

The family has started to sell some goods in the local market of Hashaba village in order to survive and adjust.

Ellol says they will not go back soon. He says they called their families and were told the killing and targeting of Tigrayan people is still happening. They will not go back until, or if Abiy Ahmed is ousted and the peace is made. He says then they can return. But as long as he is in charge, they will not go back.

One refugee, who fled the town of Humira with his two daughters, says he still supports the Tigrayan party that the Ethiopian army ousted from power.

Tiki says if Abiy Ahmed continues in the role, they will not go back to Ethiopia. He says they have a Tigrayan government that came with elections, and that Abiy Ahmed is not their government.

On a related issue, Sudan and Ethiopia established formal talks this week to begin demarcation of disputed border lands, including those that border Tigray.