Background and key developments
On 4 November 2020, military confrontations between federal and regional forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which borders both Sudan and Eritrea, led the Government to declare a State of Emergency. Eight months into the conflict, and despite the announcement of an official end to the law enforcement operation declared in late November, the overall security and access situation remain complex and fluid, hindering effective delivery of humanitarian assistance to the most affected populations in Central, Southern-Eastern, Eastern, North-Western and Southern Zones. On 28 June, the Ethiopia National Defense Forces (ENDF) withdrew from Mekelle city, the capital of Tigray region and later announced a unilateral ceasefire. Tigray region is now under the control and administration of the new Tigray authorities. On 13 July, a new offensive was launched two weeks after the ceasefire as Tigray forces said they have seized Alamata, the main town in southern Tigray. The frontline has reportedly shifted to south of Mai Tsebri and around Adi Arkay, with active conflict ongoing. Of particular concern are the two Eritrean refugee camps of Mai Aini and Adi Harush and the safety and wellbeing of refugees. Access to the two camps has been impeded for over two weeks, with services grinding to a halt and the necessity to move refugees out of harms way as soon as possible. As the volatile situation continues across the region with high uncertainty, the humanitarian response in the region remains to be challenged by a lack of access to provide adequate assistance, disrupted supply chains, and limited communication services.
Ethiopia is home to 150,021 registered Eritrean refugees across the country. Before the conflict erupted in the Tigray region in November 2020, UNHCR has registered 95,929 Eritrean refugees in Tigray and 54,183 in Afar with a small population of 7,800 living outside of camp settings under the Out of Camp Policy (OCP). At the outset of the crisis, UNHCR confirmed 59,759 refugees as the baseline for the refugee population known to be in Tigray.
According to IOM Emergency Site Assessment (ESA) report, the conflict in Tigray has displaced some estimated 1.9 million people in Tigray region.