Ethiopians Reject UNHCR Position About Whereabouts of TPLF Refugees in Sudan

September 10, 2021

Ethiopians do not seem to believe that the UNHCR was not aware of registered Ethiopian refugees in Sudan taking part in the war in Ethiopia and taking military training in Sudan


The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, on  Tuesday issued a statement regarding Ethiopian refugees involved in the fighting in Northern Ethiopia. 

The reaction came after Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) fighters  who were captured in the battle front in northern Ethiopia were found with United Nations refugee Identification cards. 

The statement from the UN body did not openly admit that Ethiopian asylum seekers, who arrived in Sudan after the Ethiopian government launched what appeared at first a law enforcement operation against TPLF leaders and their followers, who were recognized as refugees under the UNHCR protection are engaged in fighting in northern Ethiopia. 

The expression in the statement was rather subtle. It said “While there has been a modest decrease in the number of Ethiopian refugees in the refugee camps in recent months, UNHCR is not able to verify the whereabouts of those who have left, including those who may have returned to their country of origin. ” 

Ethiopians, however, rejected the explanation.  Particularly unacceptable for most Ethiopians, from ongoing conversation on social media platforms, – and some of them expressed their views to figures who work with UNHCR – , is the claim on the part of the refugee agency that it does not know the “whereabouts” of those Ethiopian registered refugees in Sudan who are said to be “missing” from the designated refugee camps. 

Ethiopian activists tend to believe that the UNHCR knows where the “missing refugees” are and what they have been doing.  

There have been reports by Ethiopian activists and local media that Sudan has recently been engaged in training and arming TPLF forces. 

They initially arrived in Sudan as refugees. They are believed to have been  involved in the Maikadra massacre in November 2020,as reported by Ethiopian authorities. 

The TPLF itself has confirmed that it has over 30,000 fighters in Sudan.  Those who managed to enter Ethiopia ,from an unknown location in Sudan adjacent to the Ethiopian border in the North West direction of the country, have been involved in the fighting, on the part of the TPLF forces. 

In May 2021, hundreds of TPLF forces, who were in Sudan as refugees,  were captured by the Ethiopian Defense Force as they attempted to enter Ethiopia for armed activity. 

Many Ethiopians do believe that the UN refugee agency knew about it.  Shared below are randomly selected  reactions of some Ethiopian Twitter users  who remarked on the UNHCR statement. 

Involvement of Aid Agencies in the Ethiopian conflict 

UNHCR’s handling of the TPLF forces who fled to Sudan after committing the Maikadra massacre has raised questions among Ethiopians. Refugee status recognition was given at the time when the Ethiopian government disclosed that the Maikadra criminals have crossed the border to Sudan. 

Another striking thing about the TPLF criminals who were accepted as refugees in Sudan, a country that invaded Ethiopian territory after the Ethiopian government launched an offensive to reverse TPLF attack on the Defense Force, is that they were used primary sources for the narratives in major media outlets and human rights organizations in the west. 

Aid Agencies who claimed to have the urge to provide “emergency humanitarian assistance in Tigray” were also somehow involved in aiding the TPLF forces. 

Fighters who were captured in the recent fighting in the North Wollo and South Gondar area were caught with high energy biscuits that were meant to be distributed to those who need it most in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. 

The TPLF leaders in the Tigray region were also provided with satellite phones that were supposed to be for aid agency workers’ operational use. 

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