UN: Sudan Refugee Camps Used for Military Recruitment

The Ethiopian gov’t routinly accuses the Tigray rebellious forces of using refugee shelters in Sudan for military recruitment

UN acknowledges that refugee shelters in eastern Sudan have been used for military recruitment
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees acknowledges that refugee shelters in eastern Sudan have been used for military recruitment. (Getty Images/Ashraf Shazly)

BY BBC AMHARIC (software translation)

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees said it had information that forced military recruitment was taking place inside Sudan refugee camps where thousands of Ethiopian refugees, mostly from Tigray, were accommodated.

The UN refugee agency told the BBC that it had received “credible reports” months ago of efforts to recruit fighters from among the refugees, sometimes by force.

In early October 2021, following the war in Tigray, tens of thousands of Ethiopians of ethnic Tigray crossed the border into Eastern Sudan.

“As soon as the High Commission for Refugees became aware of the existence of military recruitment, it expressed its concerns to the Sudanese central government and local authorities regarding the issue. Following this, the situation seemed to have improved,” the UNHCR said in an email to the BBC.

The organization stated that although it understood from the refugees that there were people coming from Ethiopia to carry out the military recruitment, it still could not confirm which party did the recruitment. [LOL]

The organization says this, but in the past, the federal government of Ethiopia has repeatedly accused people who were registered as refugees in Sudan cross the border to fight alongside the Tigray rebellious forces.

Tens of thousands of Tigray natives fled to Sudan following the nearly two-year civil war in northern Ethiopia.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees demanded that any military activities, including recruitment inside refugee shelters, besides endangering the safety of refugees and aid workers, are contrary to international laws of war and refugee principles.

The organization also called on those engaged in recruiting refugees to refrain from this act and to respect humanitarian laws.

Participation of ex-peacekeepers in the Tigray war

A few days ago, Bloomberg published a report that former UN peacekeepers from Tigray have sided with the Tigray forces.

In late April 2022, among the peacekeepers who were deployed in Abyei, a border region contested by Sudan and South Sudan, the number of Tigray natives who said they would not return to Ethiopia was around 500.

Bloomberg sources disclosed that hundreds of former members of these United Nations peacekeeping forces, who sought asylum in Sudan “because they feared for their safety”, joined other Tigray natives for the battle for the key border town of Humera.

Following Bloomberg’s expose, there have been repeated accusations for why they have been deployed to war after the United Nations granted them refugee status.

The High Commission for Refugees stated, however, points out that it is the government of Sudan that recognizes refugees and the UN department’s participation is only technical advice and support.

“A total of 650 former peacekeepers applied for asylum in Sudan, and 247 of them were recognized as refugees,” the High Commission said.

However, he said in an email to the BBC that the information he knows about individuals who have left their areas of residence without completing the process of obtaining immigration recognition is the same as any other organization.

“International law stipulates that refugee recognition does not accompany any military activity and that if a soldier wishes to seek asylum, he must leave the military,” the High Commission added.

Conflict as a new awakening

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says a renewed outbreak of war in northern Ethiopia will bring more misery to many of the already suffering civilians.

The organization predicted that the renewed conflict may cause more people to be displaced from their villages in search of safety and humanitarian aid. He expressed concern about the lack of funds to provide humanitarian aid to displaced people in Sudan and around the world.

The organization mentioned that most of the people who are currently fleeing the Ethiopian civil war and who have taken refuge in Sudan are in Rukaba and Tunayadabah shelters; These shelters are located 500 kilometers from the border of Ethiopia and Sudan.

The commission stated that it is monitoring the presence of new evacuees following the outbreak of the conflict. So far, he said, there are no reports of clashes at the refugee shelters or the Hamdiat refugee reception center.

In addition to this, the organization said that no harm was done to humanitarian workers in Sudan during the ongoing war in Ethiopia. However, he stated that he will closely monitor the renewed war.

* The above story was originally posted on BBC Amharic