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Tigray: Refugees

Question for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

UIN HL3547, tabled on 1 November 2021

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of reports that 9,000 Eritrean refugees living in refugee camps in Tigray have been forcibly returned to Eritrea; what discussions they have had with the government of Ethiopia about its obligations under the Refugee Convention; and when those discussions took place.

Answered on

9 November 2021

We are concerned at reports of human rights violations and abuses against Eritrean refugees in Tigray by the Eritrean and Tigrayan forces from November to December 2020, including the forced repatriation of refugees to Eritrea. The British Ambassador in Eritrea raised our concerns with the Eritrean Foreign Minister in December 2020, who denied that Eritrean forces had forcibly returned Eritrean refugees to Eritrea. In March, the former Minister for Africa made clear to the Eritrean Ambassador the UK's concern about reports of human rights violations by all parties to the conflict and the need for the withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray. The Minister for Africa also raised these issues in her first meeting with the Ethiopian Ambassador on 22 September.

The report by the joint UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission investigation, published on 3 November, concludes that "There are reasonable grounds to believe that parties to the conflict have violated the rights of refugees as stipulated under international human rights law, humanitarian law, refugee law, and national laws. It is essential that all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses be held to account.

We remain extremely concerned that humanitarian agencies, including the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), do not have access to refugee camps in Tigray, meaning our understanding of the humanitarian and protection context in camps and refugee hosting areas is limited. It is the responsibility of the host state to protect refugees on their territory and this was acknowledged by the Government of Ethiopia when we raised the matter.

There are numerous shocking reports of atrocities committed by Eritrean forces in Tigray, and their continued presence is fueling insecurity. These forces must leave Ethiopia immediately. We continue to press hard for this commitment to be delivered.