Ethiopian forces said to block refugees from entering Sudan

Ethiopian refugees in Sudan; medics helping refugess
A woman receives health services at a transit point in Hamdayet. © UNFPA Sudan/Sufian Abdul-Mouty

Ethiopian forces have blocked people in the country’s embattled Tigray region from crossing into Sudan at its busiest crossing point for refugees, Sudanese forces said.

Members of the Sudanese forces, speaking on condition of anonymity, said people tried to cross from Ethiopia around 6am to Hamdayet in Sudan but were stopped.

They also said that refugees waiting on the Sudan side became upset and began throwing rocks.

The Sudanese forces then cleared the area and on Thursday evening confirmed that the border crossing remained closed.

Tensions have been rising at the border in recent days as the flow of Ethiopians crossing it has slowed to hundreds per day from several thousand.

Asked over the weekend about refugees’ allegations of blocked crossings, United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters that his team had not raised the issue with Ethiopia’s government.

“We have not heard of any systematic sealing off,” Mr Grandi said.

“But certainly there are growing difficulties”.

More than 45,000 Ethiopians have fled into the remote area of Sudan, first straining the generosity of local communities and then challenging the capacity of humanitarian groups that have hurried to set up a system to feed, shelter and care for them from scratch.

Nearly half the refugees are children, the UN has said.

Refugees have recounted horrific journeys of fleeing attacks and arriving on foot after two or three days of walking in the heat.

Authorities have said they are preparing for as many as 100,000 refugees.

But Ethiopia’s government has said it welcomes the refugees to come home for reintegration and has vowed their protection.

Many of the refugees, mainly ethnic Tigrayans, have said it was the Ethiopian forces that they were fleeing from.

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