UNHCR is concerned about the humanitarian situation in the Tigray Region with the recent outbreak of conflict and the declaration of a six-month state of emergency by the Federal Government, affecting the protection and humanitarian response for Eritrean refugees in the region and heightening the likelihood of further internal and external displacement of Ethiopians. The first arrivals of Ethiopian asylum seekers were recorded in Sudan on 9 November, with some 7,000 people crossing the border in a 24-hour period.
The situation in the Eritrean refugee camps has remained calm, with no reports of refugees seeking to leave in any significant numbers. However, humanitarian activities have been limited by the current situation. Roads are blocked and electricity, phone and internet are down throughout the region, making communication nearly impossible. There is a shortage of fuel and banking services have halted, limiting the case in circulation. As the conflict escalates, there is concern for the physical security of refugees, internally displaced persons and UNHCR and partner staff, and the ability to continue to carry out lifesaving services.
Ethiopia is home to 178,000 Eritrean refugees, including 96,000 mainly accommodated in four refugee camps in the western part of the Tigray Region with 8,400 refugees living out of camps in host communities. Shimelba (population 8,700), Mai-Aini (21,600), Adi-Harush (32,000) and Hitsats (25,000) camps were established between 2004 and 2013. Tigray also counted 100,000 internally displaced within the region before the onset of the crisis. With a Sub-Office in Shire, UNHCR has Field Offices in Embamadre and Mekelle, and satellite offices in Shimelba and Hitsats camps. There is also a UNHCR Registration centre at Endabaguna, near Shire where small numbers of new Eritrean asylum seekers have continued to arrive from border areas.