UN alarm over soldiers detaining displaced people

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The UN refugee agency is concerned over reports of soldiers taking hundreds of people from displacement camps in Ethiopia’s Tigray region earlier this week, saying such sites should be a safe haven.

Three aid workers and a doctor told Reuters Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers forcibly detained over 500 young men and women from four displaced people camps in Shire in the northern region on Monday.

“We reiterate our call on all parties to ensure protection of civilians including those forcibly displaced. It is crucial all parties to the conflict recognise the civilian and humanitarian character of displacement sites,” Babar Baloch, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman, told a Geneva news briefing.

Some were released after UNHCR raised the matter with Ethiopian authorities, he said, providing no figure.

“The situation is traumatic and distressing not only for relatives but for all displaced communities in Shire,” he added.

It was not immediately clear where the remaining people were detained, he added.

Thousands of people have been killed since the conflict started, two million forced from their homes and 91% of the population of six million need aid, according to the latest report by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs.