Advocates from the Tigrayan community in Canada are calling on Ottawa to open its embassy in Addis Ababa to their relatives, who are seeking protection amid a conflict with the Ethiopian government that is feared to have killed thousands.
Azeb Gebrehiwot of the Association of Tigrayan Communities in Canada said Ottawa should provide the temporary protection for her community members in Ethiopia and unequivocally denounce the ongoing violence there.
Global Affairs Canada issued a statement Sunday calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and “an end to indiscriminate attacks on civilians and humanitarian personnel in northern Ethiopia.”
Gebrehiwot, who immigrated to Canada 18 years ago, said she has not been able to get in touch with her family due to a complete communication blackout in the Tigray region, but she was able to contact some of her cousins in the capital who said they are afraid of being arrested and killed.
The executive director of the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture in Toronto said Ottawa should put pressure on the Ethiopian government to end the siege on the Tigray region and allow aid to enter the area.
Mulugeta Abai said Ottawa should take a leadership role and ask the government in Addis Ababa to agree to forming an inclusive and transitional government that would end the conflict.
“We’re very concerned with what’s going on and that’s why we’re really calling [for] a peaceful solution and that starts with a ceasefire,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly.
The worsening security situation in Ethiopia has prompted Canada to withdraw family members of diplomats and non-essential staff from the country. Joly said support for Canadians in the region will still be available despite the withdrawal of some embassy staff.
The United Nations said that after heavy fighting erupted a year ago between government troops and those loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), some 5.2 million people remain in need of assistance across the Ethiopian regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar.
The UN said thousands are feared killed and more than two million have been forced to flee their homes amid allegations of widespread human rights abuses on all sides.