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15 Tigray’s UN peacekeepers refuse to leave South Sudan

Williams Babalola
15 members out of the 169 delegations of Ethiopian peacekeepers in South Sudan, originally from the Tigray region, have said that they won’t be returning to Ethiopia over fear for their lives.
According to the UN’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, they have the right to further seek asylum if returning to Ethiopia would endanger their lives. He added that Sudan will do its best to ensure that none of the asylum seekers is exposed to risks.
Tigray has been the theatre of fighting since early November 2020, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), accusing them of attacking federal army camps.
He declared victory after pro-government troops took regional capital Mekele in late November, though the TPLF vowed to fight on, and this has further caused clashes in the region, hindering several groups’ effort to deliver the needed humanitarian assistance for the people in the region.
“This morning, 169 members of the Ethiopian contingent were due to rotate out of Juba and (be) replaced by fresh contingents, a part of a normal rotation,” said Dujarric during his daily press conference.
“We’re trying to get the details, but I do understand about 15 members of the contingent chose not to board the flight at the Juba airport. They’ve asked to stay,” he said, adding that “any person in need of international protection has the right to seek asylum.”
“They are receiving support from the South Sudanese Ministry of Refugee Affairs,” Dujarric continued, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is “aware” of the situation and in contact with South Sudanese authorities.
The UNHCR defends the principle of “non-refoulement,” or allowing refugees or people seeking asylum not to return to their country of origin “if they feel their lives or freedom could be threatened,” Dujarric said.

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