Ethiopia: Eritrea

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office written question – answered at on 21 December 2020.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) reports from UN refugee camps in Tigray of the forcible return of Eritrean refugees to Eritrea, and (2) whether any such refugees are at risk of (a) torture, and (b) imprisonment, in Eritrea; whether they have raised this matter with the government of Eritrea; and, if so, what response they have received.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

We are extremely concerned that humanitarian agencies, including the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), do not have access to refugee camps in Tigray. UNHCR has, as a result, been unable to corroborate reports of abduction and forced return of Eritrean refugees, meaning our understanding of the humanitarian and protection context in camps and refugee hosting areas is limited. The UK continues to call for immediate, free and unfettered humanitarian access across Tigray in line with the guiding principles laid down by UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), so that UNHCR can uphold its mandate towards refugees. It is the responsibility of the host state to ensure refugees are protected and are not subjected to forcible return.

The British Ambassador in Eritrea raised these questions with the Eritrean Foreign Minister on 2 December, who denied that Eritrea is involved militarily in the conflict and categorically denied that Eritrean forces had forcibly returned Eritrean refugees to Eritrea. He also stated that there are no Ethiopian refugees in Eritrea.

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