Up to 550 ethnic Tigrayan soldiers serving as UN peacekeepers in Abyei, a contested area on Sudan’s border with South Sudan, refuse to go to Ethiopia fearing reprisals, say officials working in refugee response.
Up to 550 Ethiopianpeacekeepers working in Sudan have sought asylum rather thanreturn home for fear they will be persecuted due to theirTigrayan ethnicity, an official with direct knowledge of theplan has said.
The soldiers, numbering between 525 to 550, were part of aUN peacekeeping force working in Abyei, a contested oil-richarea on Sudan's border with South Sudan, the official working inrefugee response told the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity on Tuesday.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and militaryspokesman Colonel Getnet Adane did not immediately respond to the Reuters' request for comment on the soldiers seeking asylum. Nordid spokespeople for the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR,or the UN peacekeeping office.
The official said that the soldiers were at the peacekeeping mission's rear base in Kadugli in South Kordofan and that UNHCR was planning to move them to one fenced camp near a refugee camp for Eritreans in Sudan's Gadaref state.
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The fighting pits Ethiopia's government and its alliesagainst rebellious Tigrayan fighters loyal to the Tigray People'sLiberation Front (TPLF), a political party that once dominatednational politics and now controls the Tigray region.
Ethiopia's government considers Tigrayan fighters as militias and denies targeting any ethnic group, saying they target suspected TPLF and its supporters.
UN and human rights groups have expressed their concerns about conditions in the country after war erupted in the Tigray region in November 2020.
The United Nations has said at least 15,000 Tigrayancivilians were arrested or imprisoned across Ethiopia under thestate of emergency declared in November and lifted in February.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said previously that Tigrayans had been targeted in "a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing" in the long-contested western Tigray region. Addis Ababa denies the charge.
READ MORE:UN aid arrives in Ethiopia's Tigray region