There have been significant violations of international law at two refugee camps in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the UN’s refugee agency has said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said satellite imagery showed fires burning and fresh signs of destruction at the Shimelba and Hitsats camps for refugees from neighbouring Eritrea which people fled due to political persecution and compulsory military service before the conflict in Tigray.
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“These are concrete indications of major violations of international law,” Filippo Grandi, commissioner of the UNHCR, said in a statement on Thursday.
The Reuters news agency published satellite images on Tuesday from Planet Lab Inc that showed destruction in the two camps during the first week of January.
Aid agencies say they have been unable to reach the camps since the conflict erupted in Tigray in November between Ethiopian federal forces and the TPLF, the party that used to govern the region.
There has been no comment from Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the government’s emergency task force for the Tigray crisis.
In December, a UN team was shot at when it tried to reach the Shimelba camp.
Two diplomatic sources told Reuters the UN team encountered uniformed troops from neighbouring Eritrea.
At the time, Ethiopia and Eritrea denied there were Eritrean troops in Tigray. A senior Ethiopian general has since said they had crossed into the region uninvited.
Grandi said there had been reports of additional military incursions over the last 10 days.
“I continue to receive many reliable reports and first-hand accounts of ongoing insecurity and allegations of grave and distressing human rights abuses, including killings, targeted abductions and forced return of refugees to Eritrea,” he said.