Addis Ababa (Agenzia Fides) - Eritrean refugees in Tigray, in the northern region of Ethiopia, must be granted a legal status that protects them. This is what Abba Mussie Zerai, a priest of the eparchy of Asmara, who has long campaigned for the protection of migrants, asks . "In Tigray - he explains to Agenzia Fides – there are thousands of Eritreans who are often hungry and exposed to all forms of exploitation and abuse. This situation increases the despair of these people and drives them into the hands of human traffickers. The exodus to Sudan and Libya is increasing because of the poor conditions they encounter today in Ethiopia".
Abba Mussie therefore calls on the European Union to "invest resources in order to ensure that these Eritrean refugees are welcomed in Ethiopia in a dignified manner and to guarantee access to the right of asylum, access to education and medical care and work". "This is the best way to help and welcome refugees. Otherwise, the exodus to Europe will increase with the sad number of deaths in the desert and in the Mediterranean Sea".
The priest would like diplomatic efforts to urge the Ethiopian government to protect the rights of these migrants in order to grant residence permits to those living outside the refugee camps. Since civilians are currently no longer housed in refugee camps, many women and children without protection and without accommodation are particularly exposed to the dangers of the coronavirus emergency.
"In general - he observes - the local government and parishes are very welcoming, supportive and collaborate in a fraternal spirit with the refugees. This is to be appreciated. The situation on the site, however, is dramatic".
Many Eritreans suffer from serious chronic diseases (diabetes, heart problems, malnutrition, etc.). There are many people who have mental health problems. There is no equipment to protect against Covid-19. "The most critical situation - continues the priest - is that of minors. Many of them are on their own. They have no one to help them. They do not go to school, they drink alcohol, smoke, many girls get pregnant.
"In addition to the registration and recognition of the status of refugees, which would ensure the safety of the refugees - Abba Mussie observes - it is necessary to guarantee them materials (food, shelter, etc.) for protection as well as medical and psychological help. Minors must be helped to grow up with sound principles. I appeal to all the institutions of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and to the Ethiopian government to activate all the useful tools to alleviate the suffering of these very vulnerable refugees". (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 14/11/2020)