Sudanese refugee ‘missing’ in Ethiopia

Refugees in Awlala, Amhara, protest against the rampant insecurity in the area in April (Photo: Facebook page of Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia)

A Sudanese refugee, Khairallah Ali Juma, 28, has gone missing in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, raising fears of kidnapping amid escalating violence. Juma was last seen on the road between Kumer and Awlala camps on Friday while travelling with medical staff in an aid organisation’s vehicle. 

Sources state the vehicle was found abandoned on Saturday, but neither Juma, a father of a two-year-old, nor the medical team have been located. Authorities have yet to provide details on the number or nationalities of the medical staff.

In a statement to Radio Dabanga yesterday, a Sudanese refugee spokesperson highlighted the broader context of insecurity faced by refugees in the region. The source referenced the murder of Adila Ahmed, a Sudanese refugee and mother of two, who was killed by gunmen on June 16, just before Eid El Adha. Additionally, two other refugees were kidnapped and beaten in the same incident.

Radio Dabanga attempted to contact both the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) office in Ethiopia, as well as the Ethiopian authorities for comment, but did not receive an immediate response.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission’s recent annual report, released last Friday, documented a surge in kidnappings for ransom in the Oromia and Amhara regions. The report cited a significant increase in violent incidents, including the kidnapping of refugees.

A memorandum from refugee representatives, obtained by Radio Dabanga, revealed that over 10 per cent of refugees at the Kumer camp have been victims of violent crimes since the camp’s establishment in May 2023. This includes 743 reported incidents of gun threats, forced searches, kidnappings, murder, and looting.

In response to ongoing threats, Sudanese refugees at the Kumer and Awlala camps have rejected an Ethiopian government offer to relocate them to the Kokit area, situated 30km west of the city of Shahidi. 

The refugees have maintained a sit-in protest in the Ulala border camp, approximately 64km from the Sudanese border, for the past ten weeks. The camp currently houses 6,000 refugees, including 1,100 women and 2,000 children.

Hundreds of Sudanese fled the Ulala camp in light of the deteriorating health and security conditions and the spread of diseases, especially among children, such as cholera, infections, and fevers.