AFP – NEWS

Ethiopia announced Thursday it has opened a new camp in the north of the country to accommodate the growing number of Eritrean refugees arriving each month.

The first batch of 356 people arrived on Thursday at the camp in Adi-Harush in Tigray, the fourth to be established in the region since 2004, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs said in a statement.

“Eighty percent of the first group is composed of mainly young people between the ages of 21 and 34,” it added.

The agency said up to 2,000 mostly young men and women were now crossing the border each month to “avoid excessive repression, gross human rights violations and forced conscription into the army.”

Rights groups say Eritrea has turned into a “giant prison” where detentions, torture and prolonged military conscription have become rife since a 2001 crackdown on perceived political opponents, including senior officials.

Earlier this month, a former Eritrean prison guard who fled to Ethiopia claimed his country’s ex-foreign minister and an army chief had died in prison while thousands of others had fallen severely ill in “secret detention centres”.

The two officials were close allies of President Issaias Afeworki throughout the Red Sea state’s 30-year war for independence.

In addition to the 49,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, hundreds of others arrive every month in neighbouring Sudan, according to the UN refugee agency.