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Witnesses – Thomas Dworzak: Refugees at the Border, Sudan, 2020

In November 2020, after a reported attack on a major Ethiopian army base, the Ethiopian Prime Minister ordered military action against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Thousands of people fled the violence and took refuge in Sudan.

Photographer Thomas Dworzak was on site in Sudan just weeks after people began to arrive in December 2020, visiting the Al-Shabat, Al Hashabat and Um Rakuba camps, where MSF operates medical and hygiene facilities. Here his images accompany a personal account of the situation from freelance journalist, Elias Gebreselassie, an ethnic Tigrayan based in Addis Ababa.

Thomas Dworzak

Thomas Dworzak Ethnic Tigray Ethiopian refugees fled the central government's military offensive against what is perceived as separatism by the Tigray regional government and its military branch TPLF. After cross (...)

In November 2020, after a reported attack on a major Ethiopian army base, the Ethiopian Prime Minister ordered military action against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Tensions had been building for weeks between the national government and people in the Tigray region, and the situation escalated into a military conflict. Thousands of people fled the violence, heading to other areas of the country or leaving to take refuge in Sudan.

Photographer Thomas Dworzak was on site in Sudan just weeks after people began to arrive in December 2020, visiting the Al-Shabat, Al Hashabat and Um Rakuba camps, where MSF operates medical and hygiene facilities.

This situation is not new. Large numbers of Ethiopian refugees entered the Gedaref region in the 1980s during the famine in their own country and the ensuing humanitarian crisis. Now, more than 30 years later, the former refugee camps in the area have become communities, and the Ethiopians living there have integrated into Sudanese society.

Today, at the moment of this book’s printing (October 2021), all signs point to a situation likely to persist. The fighting appears to be far from over in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. These refugees will probably not be able to return home for a long time.

Thomas Dworzak After crossing into Sudan the ethnic Tigray refugees are transferred and settled in Um Rakuba, which was already a site of camps during the 1984 famine. MSF runs the water supplies and has an emerg (...)
Thomas Dworzak Um Rakuba Camp, Gedaref Region, Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia/Tigray Region. 2020/21. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak When crossing into Sudan the refugees settle in unoccupied, unfinished houses at Al Hashaba Village 8, built for local Sudanese being resettled after the building of a Tekeze River dam. Some Sudane (...)
Thomas Dworzak Al Hashaba, Gedaref Region, Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia/Tigray Region. 2020/21. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak Al Hashaba, Gedaref Region, Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia/Tigray Region. 2020/21. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak Um Rakuba Camp. Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia/Tigray Region. 2020/21. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak Al Hashaba, Gedaref Region, Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia/Tigray Region. 2020/21. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak Um Rakuba Camp, Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia/Tigray Region. 2020/21. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
Thomas Dworzak Al Hashaba, Gedaref Region, Sudan's eastern border with Ethiopia/Tigray Region. 2020/21. © Thomas Dworzak | Magnum Photos
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