Many constituents have reached out to me concerned about the humanitarian crisis in East Africa. Over recent months I have spoken to several constituents originally from this region and received correspondence from many more. Many still have family in areas facing conflict and famine and are desperate for the UK government to help their loved ones back home.
I am most concerned by the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia. The reports of human rights violations and abuses – the killing of civilians, sexual and gender-based violence, indiscriminate shelling and the forced displacement of residents of Tigray and Eritrean refugees – are incredibly shocking. Those responsible for such abuses should be held to account.
I recently wrote to the Foreign Secretary (letter attached below) and will continue to lobby the UK government for strong action.
This situation is also another sad demonstration of why I believe it was utterly wrong for the government to cut our 0.7% commitment to humanitarian assistance at this time.
The Labour Party’s position on Tigray:
- The Labour Party strongly supports the African Union-led peace negotiation process.
- Labour wants to see an immediate ceasefire, the restoration of humanitarian access, an end to violations of international humanitarian law and full accountability.
- Labour is extremely concerned by the humanitarian crisis in Tigray and calls on the Ethiopian authorities to urgently restore humanitarian access and telecommunications.
- There is credible evidence that terrible and repeated human rights violations have been committed by all sides.
- There is a risk of ongoing human rights violations as Ethiopian and Eritrean forces are rapidly taking military control over large areas of Tigray and the telecommunications blackout remains in place.
- There must be credible accountability and processes of law that are done and seen to be done for all the people of Ethiopia. It is vital that there are credible, transparent and impartial investigations into abuses committed by all sides.
- Labour wants investigators from the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia to have rapid and unhindered access to the whole of Ethiopia, including Tigray, and to refugee camps in neighbouring countries where Ethiopian refugees have fled. Victims and survivors of abuses, particularly sexual violence, need specialist support, but this is impossible without full access to refugee camps.
- We have regularly raised these issues in Parliament, with Labour MPs and Peers speaking in 10 debates on Tigray since the conflict began, and Labour’s Shadow Minister for Africa Lyn Brown raising the hunger crisis and prevention of humanitarian access in Parliament in January 2022. Lyn Brown asked the Government to consider sanctioning Eritrean actors, in coordination with the US, for their involvement in the conflict.
- Labour members have tabled over 120 written questions relating to Tigray. We have repeatedly expressed our concerns directly to the Ethiopian Embassy in London.
- Labour have repeatedly raised the issue of the funding available for the region over recent months and pushed the Government on the impact that the cut from the 0.7% has had on the UK’s ability to help address the risk of famine in Tigray and the millions of people severely food insecure due to drought in Ethiopia.
My letter to the Foreign Secretary (November 2022):
Ministerial response from the FCDO (January 2023):