UNHCR appeals to Eritrea over refugee camp closure

The UN’s main refugee agency launched a formal appeal to the government of Eritrea not to close the country’s only refugee camp.

The Umkulu refugee camp, located some ten kilometres from the Red Sea port town of Massawa, is Eritrea’s only refugee camp.

The camp hosted more than 2 100 Somali refugees. Of these, 1 300 people have now arrived in northern Ethiopia.

According to Raouf Mazou, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa “closing a camp which has hosted Somali refugees for close to 20 years without offering alternatives raises serious concerns.”

UNHCR is coordinating with the Ethiopian authorities to relocate the 1 300 refugees who arrived in Ethiopia away from the border and to transfer them to Melkadida in the Southern part of the country.

As a reminder, after Syria, Eritrea itself provides the second-largest number of people looking to migrate to Europe.

One in 10 of all prospective migrants to Europe are Eritrean, and the UN estimates around 4,000 people leave the country every month. Most say they are fleeing military service, but the Eritrean government maintains those who leave are economic migrants.