November 12, 2020

Thousands of refugees flee fighting in Ethiopia and enter neighboring Sudan

Thousands of refugees flee fighting in Ethiopia and enter neighboring Sudan

Thousands of refugees are fleeing the ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s northern region Tigray and crossing into Sudan. It is thought that as many as 8,000 Ethiopians have entered their neighboring country in the last couple of days and, according to aid officials, hundreds of thousands more are likely to leave their home country if the conflict does not end. According to Sudanese frontier officials, children were arriving to the country hungry and tired as a result of what had been a difficult journey.

IZA World of Labor author Jesús Fernández-Huertas Moraga has explored the evidence to find out where, geographically, refugees commonly flee to and found that “typically, neighbors of countries in conflict tend to receive the bulk of refugee flows.” He writes that “A way to distribute refugees efficiently, while respecting their rights, is to combine two market mechanisms. First, a market for tradable refugee admission quotas that allows refugees to be established wherever it is less costly to do so. Second, a matching system that links refugees to their preferred destinations, and host countries to their preferred types of refugees.”

“This would address one of the main deficiencies of the international system of refugee protection, which is that most of the responsibility for protecting refugees falls on a few selected countries (typically the neighbors of conflict countries), while the benefit from this protection extends to the whole world,” Moraga adds.

The fighting in Tigray began last week when Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia’s prime minister, claimed that the local authorities have attacked a military camp in the region. Ahmed launched military operations as he believed the region’s military assets were targeted but the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has said the accusations are false and has in turn accused Ethiopia’s prime minister of making up the claims in order to justify the military operations.

Abiy has said that the operation in Tigray is so far “proceeding as planned” and has dismissed UN’s, UK’s and the African Union’s calls to end hostilities. “Operations will cease as soon as the criminal junta is disarmed, legitimate administration in the region restored, and fugitives apprehended [and] brought to justice,” Abiy tweeted. The TPLF has also alluded that they are succeeding in the fight by highlighting that they took down a jet.

“It looks like, unfortunately, this may not be something which can be resolved by any party in a week or two. It looks like it’s going to be a protracted conflict, which is a huge concern from the point of view of protection of civilians,” Sajjad Mohammad Sajid, the United Nations’ humanitarian chief in Ethiopia, commented. At the moment, close to 900 aid workers in Tigray are having difficulties getting in touch with the outside world and struggling to bring in humanitarian supplies. According to aid agencies, 100,000 people were already internally displaced people in the region of Tigray and 600,000 depending on food aid.

Read Jesús Fernández-Huertas Moraga’s article Can market mechanisms solve the refugee crisis?