Today, Eritrea Focus is launching a “10,000 Letters to UNHCR” Campaign to highlight the abduction and ill-treatment of refugees in Tigray by Eritrean occupying forces in collaboration with the Ethiopian Government.
The UNHCR has a duty of care to protect Eritrean refugees and to exert pressure on the Ethiopian Government to comply with international law and norms, which it has so far failed to do. As a result, thousands of Eritrean refugees have been stolen at gunpoint from Tigray by the regime in Asmara.
The aim of the campaign is to overwhelm the UNHCR with huge number of letters from across the world over the coming 10 days in order to get them to proactively act in partnership with the international community to save Eritrean lives.
The campaign will be advertised on television and radio regularly over the coming days so we get as many people as possible to send a letter to the UNHCR.
People who wish to send the letter to UNHCR need to; (a) insert address at the top right-hand corner, (b) date, (c) insert full name (d) sign, and (e) post, which in the UK costs about 70p.
Please share the letter with as many of your family members and contacts as possible.
This letter could help save many innocent lives.
[Insert your address here]
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Geneve 2 Depot
Dear Mr Grandi,
I am writing to you to express my deep concern for the fate of the almost 100,000 Eritrean refugees in camps in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray. As you are aware, they are now caught up in the fighting and in immediate peril.
The refugees fled from Eritrea to escape the oppressive conditions inside the country and an indefinite conscription that all Eritreans are subjected to. Most are now living in four United Nations-sponsored camps, Hitsats, Mai-Aini, Adi-Harush and Shemelba, under the official protection of the UNHCR. Others live in the community; some in villages, some in towns.
There are many reports that Eritrean troops are fighting alongside Ethiopian armed forces. It would appear that the Ethiopian government has allowed Eritrean military to take control of the Eritrean citizens in Tigray. We have heard credible reports that thousands of refugees have been rounded up as their camps were overrun. It is understood that refugees were removed at gunpoint from the Shimelba and Hitsats camps and Shire town and are being forcibly returned to Eritrea. If deported to Eritrea they face severe punishment and may even be killed. Additionally, there are concerning reports that the troops destroyed all UNHCR records and seized all medicines. Communications with the refugees is extremely difficult, but we have a reliable report of a mother seeing her own son on a bus inside Eritrea, being taken in the direction of Asmara. He was previously a refugee in a UNHCR camp in Shimelba, Tigray.
When you were in Sudan you expressed your concern at the fate of the Eritrean refugees after hearing reports that they faced abduction. You are quoted as saying that if the refugees were being forcibly returned to Eritrea it “would be major violations of international norms.” You went on to say that: “It is my strong appeal for the Prime Minister of Ethiopia for this situation to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
The Ethiopian Government is directly responsible to UNHCR for the safety of refugees. Under international law the Ethiopian Government must ensure the safety of all refugees in its care, and is responsible for preventing any criminal acts against them. We urge you to raise the issue with the Ethiopian government without delay, and seek assistance from international partners if required. We cannot allow Eritrean men, women and children to be refouled to Eritrea, where they face imprisonment, torture and worse.
I call on you to act without delay to secure the safety of these vulnerable people.
[Name here and sign above]