Ethiopia to Close Refugee Camp Despite Outcry of Eritrean Migrants

By Staff Reporter   

Hintsats-refugee-campApril 17, 2020 ( -- The Agency for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) has announced the decision to shut down the Hintsats refugee camp in Tigray regional state of northern Ethiopia and relocate the over 18,000 Eritrean refugees to other places.

ARRA public relations head Yassin Ali said the decision was made to help the refugees get better services and access to live in their favorite cities of Ethiopia.

Although the Ethiopian government did not disclose the real motive, many observers believe this is being done to satisfy demands from the Eritrean government which sees such camps as breeding grounds for opposition against its rule. The fact that the camps are so close to its border and in Tigray state, a region that is currently not in good terms with Eritrea, adds weight to that argument.

There is a growing concern in Ethiopia as to the exact nature of the relationship between the Abiy Ahmed government in Ethiopia and the Eritrean regime. Some fear the internal politics of Ethiopia may be involved here. If true, that would constitute a grave violation of the Ethiopian constitution and its sovereignty.

Some of the refugees whom DW Amharic spoke to described the agency’s decision as “politically motivated” as was conspired by the governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia.

“Based on the newly introduced proclamation, refugees can leave camps and reside in any part of the country and due to which several migrants are leaving the camps,” he said.

Hitsats camp is one of four refugee camps in Tigray region that together house nearly 100,000 people from Eritrea, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, there are more than 170,000 Eritrean refugees nationwide.

In early March, Ethiopian officials informed UNHCR of their intention to close Hitsats as part of a consolidation scheme, but it was delayed after Ethiopia confirmed its first COVID-19 cases in mid-March.

Authorities of the Tigray regional state did not comment on the matter but last month warned that the refugees will face punishments if they are forced to return to their home country.

"The weather condition in the Hitsats refugee camp is very difficult for the refugees themselves and if they are relocated to other camps where there are enough spaces including in Shemlba and Adahashi, ARRA is relieved for giving its service in a fragmented way," Yassin said.

Despite the move from ARRA to shut down the amp, the refugees in Hitsats resist relocation and waiting for the responses to their requests to the Ethiopian government and that of international organizations working on migration.

“We do not want to move to other camps. We are living here peacefully. We never complained nor did not hit strike and do not understand why the government wanted to move us, the refugees claimed.

A committee establish to avert the closure of the refugee camp said the move to shut down the refugee camp has created insecurity among the refugees. The Eritrean refugees are believed to be political and economic migrants.

The committee called on the international community to stop the shutting down of the refugee camp. They believed the Eritrean regime was conspiring behind the closure of the seven-year-old refugee camp.

The refugee camp is one of the five refugee camps for Eritrean migrants, four of which are found in Tigray region and one in Afar regional state.

Authorities in Tigray regional state accused Addis Ababa and Asmara of plotting to shut down the Hintsats refugee camp.

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