Sudanese refugees hiding in Ethiopian forest to escape bandits and militias

Thousands of Sudanese refugees are dwelling in a forest near Ethiopia’s border with Sudan after surviving attacks by local militias on United Nations-run refugee camps.

The refugees fled in May after gunmen and bandits repeatedly stormed the camps to steal supplies, rape women, kidnap people for ransom and terrify civilians.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said about 1,000 people left the camps.

“We want to get out of the borderlands of Ethiopia and we want to leave Ethiopia altogether,” said Montasser*, a community leader among the Sudanese refugees in the forest.

“We refuse to be put in any other camp here in Ethiopia.”

No protection, no empathy

Sudan is the world’s largest displacement crisis – more than 10 million people have fled since a power struggle between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) erupted into war in April 2023.

More than 53,000 people came to Ethiopia, and about 8,500 of them were settled in UN-administered camps at Awlala and Kumer in the Amhara region.

Ethiopian government forces are fighting the Fano armed group in Amhara, with the refugee camps in the heart of the conflict and the refugees saying the camps are attacked often by “bandits and militias”.

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