(Reuters) – There have been major violations of international law in two refugee camps in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Thursday. He said satellite images showed fires and new signs of destruction in the Shimelba and Hitsats camps for refugees from neighboring Eritrea, who fled political persecution and conscription before the conflict in Tigray. “These are concrete indications of major violations of international law,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement. Reuters on Tuesday released satellite images from California-based Planet Lab Inc showing destruction in the two fields during the first week of January. Aid agencies say they have been unable to reach the camps since the conflict broke out in Tigray in November between Ethiopian federal forces and the party that used to rule the region. Spokesmen for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the government’s emergency task force for the Tigray crisis did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Reuters was unable to independently verify the events in Tigray as the government is restricting access to the region. In December, a UN team was shot while trying to reach Shimelba camp. Two diplomatic sources told Reuters that the UN team had encountered uniformed troops from neighboring Eritrea. At the time, Ethiopia and Eritrea denied that Eritrean troops were in Tigray. A senior Ethiopian general has since said that they had entered the region uninvited. Grandi said there have been reports of additional military incursions in the past 10 days. “I continue to receive many reliable reports and first-hand accounts of the current insecurity and allegations of serious and harrowing human rights abuses, including killings, targeted kidnappings and the forced return of refugees to Eritrea,” he said. Eritrea’s Information Minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Grandi also said that UNHCR teams had not been able to help thousands of Eritrean refugees who continue to flee the camps. “Refugees arriving on foot in the town of Shire in Tigray are emaciated and asking for help that is not available,” he said. “I have stressed to the Ethiopian leadership the urgency of guaranteeing the protection of refugees, preventing forced return and keeping refugee camps safe from attacks and other threats from armed actors,” he said.
Major violations of international law in Tigray refugee camps: UN By Reuters
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