Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE) Has Issued An Urgent Appeal: Eritrean Refugees Held for Ransom in Tigray, Ethiopia.

Feb 16, 2024 | News

Urgent Appeal: Eritrean Refugees Held for Ransom in Tigray, Ethiopia

15 February 2024

Eritreans escaping their homeland’s oppressive regime and seeking refuge in Ethiopia’s Tigray region are falling victim to kidnappings for ransom. Disturbingly, the perpetrators are not only demanding payment from the victims’ families but are also reselling the individuals to other criminals, perpetuating a distressing cycle of extortion.

Reports indicate that Eritrean refugees, already vulnerable and fleeing dire circumstances, are subjected to torture while pleading with their relatives over the phone. The number of abducted Eritreans is rapidly increasing, and family members are being compelled to pay amounts ranging from $4,500 to $5,000 US dollars per person. Shockingly, even after ransom payments are made, victims are not released, instead, they are resold, to other kidnappers, members of criminal gangs who demand the same amount of ransom. This highlights the severity of this organized criminal activity. Funds are collected through various means, including cash and bank transfers in both Tigray and the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

This egregious crime against defenceless Eritrean refugees is known to the authorities in Tigray, yet thus far, no substantial actions have been taken to halt it. The severity of this situation demands immediate attention and concerted efforts involving both the authorities in Tigray and the Ethiopian government to eliminate such inhumane practices.

Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE) urgently calls on the regional government of Tigray and the government of Ethiopia to:

  • Launch a prompt and thorough investigation into these heinous crimes, pursuing all leads related to the criminal gangs involved;
  • Ensure security and protection for all refugees in the region;
  • Collaborate with international organisations to establish a coordinated effort in investigating and dismantling the criminal networks involved in the kidnapping and extortion of Eritrean refugees;
  • Enhance border security to prevent the illegal trafficking and movement of victims across borders, hindering the criminals’ ability to exploit regional vulnerabilities;
  • Strengthen the legal framework and law enforcement capabilities to prosecute individuals involved in human trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion, ensuring that justice is served and perpetrators are held accountable.

HRCE also appeals to the United Nations, African Union, and International Human Rights organisations to:

  • Conduct a thorough investigation into all reported cases of Eritrean kidnappings for ransom in Tigray;
  • Engage with the regional government of Tigray and the government of Ethiopia, urging swift action to end these crimes and apprehend the perpetrators;
  • Strongly demand that Tigray Regional security services and police provide protection to Eritrean refugees;
  • Advocate for the establishment of an international task force to investigate and address the transnational aspects of the criminal networks involved in the kidnapping and extortion of Eritrean refugees;
  • Engage with regional and international partners to provide financial and logistical support to enhance the capacity of local authorities in Tigray to combat human trafficking and protect vulnerable populations;
  • Monitor and report on the progress made by the regional government of Tigray and the Ethiopian government in addressing the issue, ensuring transparency and accountability in their efforts;
  • Raise awareness globally about the plight of Eritrean refugees in Tigray, emphasizing the need for a sustained international response to address the ongoing challenges faced by these vulnerable populations.


Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

[email protected]

+44 7958 005 637

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