By Meron Estefanos
(Mai Ayni 07/10/2013) According to the refugees that I spoke to, three people have died and scores more injured at two separate incidences, at the Eritrean refugee camps in northern Ethiopia.
On Saturday 5th of October, two days after the boat accident that claimed the lives of hundreds of Eritrean refugees off the cost of Lampedusa, a memorial vigil at Mai Ayni refugee camp turned violent as when refugees started expressing their outrage at their own situation which is leading many in their ranks to consider the journey off the Libyan shores as a more viable option. The police open fire to disperse the riot and wounding four unaccompanied children in the care of a child care charity.
The unrest then spread to other refugee camps and this morning protests at Adi Harish Camp resulted in the death of three refugees and many other casualties.
Refugees who contacted Eritrean independent Radio Erena, disclosed that whilst the initial objectives of the gatherings was to remember those who perished in the Lampedusa disaster, but quickly turned into a protest over what refugees considered corruption in the refugee resettlement process as well as issues over camp security.
It is estimated that there are over 65,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia, spread over four refugee camps, in the regions bordering Eritrea as well in the capital as Urban Refugees. The refugees believe that many of those who are making the perilous journey via Libya and the Sahara Desert do so because the resettlement program in Ethiopian refugee camps is corrupt with many Ethiopians being given bogus refugee statuses that qualify them for resettlement opportunities and often they are prioritized over genuine refugees.
The UNHCR estimate that up to 3,000 refugees leave Eritrea every month and a majority of those are currently in refugee camps in Sudan and Ethiopia.