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UNHCR statement on the protests by refugees from Awlala and Kumer refugee sites in the Amhara region of Ethiopia

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UNHCR statement on the protests by refugees from Awlala and Kumer refugee sites in the Amhara region of Ethiopia

6 May 2024

On 01 May 2024, close to 1,000 refugees, mainly from Sudan, walked out in protest from Awlala Refugee site in North Gondar Zone, Amhara region towards the Metema-Gondar highway citing safety concerns and limited services at the site.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, together with Ethiopia’s Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) and regional authorities, immediately engaged with the refugees and their leadership to inform them of the steps that UNHCR and the Government of Ethiopia are taking to address the situation, which includes increased police patrols. Since then, some refugees have returned to the sites; however, the majority of them have camped by the side of the road, around 1.5 kms from Awlala site.

While efforts to convince the rest of the group to return to the site continue, local authorities are providing for their security. UNHCR and its partner World Vision International have also deployed a mobile health clinic to the area to provide medical support, if needed. Another group of over 300 refugees from the Kumer site have decided to stay by the road close to a Federal Police Post, also stating security concerns. UNHCR and RRS teams on the ground continue to hold discussions with both groups to reach a resolution.

UNHCR is concerned about the challenging security situation in and around the refugee sites, including some reports of armed intruders, and the toll it has taken on refugees who have already been through so much having fled the conflict in Sudan. We continue to advocate with authorities to find a viable solution.

UNHCR continues to advocate for heightened support to enhance the provision of security and of essential services.

Since the conflict broke out in Sudan more than a year ago, the Government and people of Ethiopia have kept their doors open to refugees. To date, over 53,500 refugees have crossed into the country, with about half of them being hosted in the Amhara region and the other half in the Benishangul Gumuz region. The Government identified two sites to establish refugee sites in the Amhara region, Kumer and Awlala. With support from the international community, UNHCR has been working with partners to ensure service provision.

As of the end of April 2024, Kumer refugee site hosts a population of some 6,500 people, mainly from Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan while Awlala refugee site houses a population of 2,000 people, mainly Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees.

Ethiopia now hosts over 1 million refugees making it the second largest refugee hosting country in Africa.