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Refugee Watchdog Calls for Immediate Action in Ethiopia

Eritrean refugees / Getty Images
• February 9, 2021 5:00 pm

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A U.S. refugee organization is calling for immediate action to address the refugee crisis emerging out of Ethiopia.

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) urged international action to address the disappearance of 20,000 refugees from the embattled Tigray region of the African country. Millions are facing starvation as a result of the months-long conflict that has presented the fledgling Biden administration with its first international crisis.

"There is strong evidence that some of the missing have been detained, killed, or forcibly repatriated to Eritrea in violation of international refugee law," the organization said in a statement. "USCRI calls for an immediate independent United Nations investigation into these disappearances."

The organization also told the Washington Free Beacon that the Biden administration, which is already facing calls on multiple fronts to act in the crisis, must take charge.

"The Biden Administration should appoint a special envoy for Ethiopia and support and lead an independent investigation into 20,000 Eritrean refugees' disappearance," USCRI president Eskinder Negash said.

Twenty-five-thousand refugees were living in two refugee camps in the region prior to the breakout of a conflict between the Ethiopian government and local Tigray leaders in November 2020. Almost 5,000 refugees are believed to have fled to other camps, while the remaining 20,000 are currently unaccounted for amid the violence.

Watchdogs have released video footage that shows possible war crimes occurring in the region, including the shelling of a church. International human rights organizations have not been allowed on the ground to evaluate the full extent of the damage from the conflict. Troops from neighboring Eritrea have reportedly joined the conflict on the side of the Ethiopian government.

The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment by publication time. The administration has called for Eritrean troops to leave the region and for an end to the violence.