Thousands of Ethiopians fleeing conflict in the northern Tigray region have crossed west into neighboring Sudan, a government official said Tuesday.
Among those streaming across the border were several Ethiopian soldiers, said Alsir Khaled, head of Sudan’s refugee agency in the eastern border town of Kassala.
“Refugees are pouring in, and the situation is changing by the hour,” said Khaled.
At least 2,500 refugees were counted in the past two days, but hundreds more civilians arriving were yet to be processed by authorities, he added.
Around 30 Ethiopian soldiers who also fled “handed themselves over at a Sudanese military checkpoint,” Khaled added.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops and air force jets into Tigray last week in a campaign against the regional ruling government.
Much of the fighting has reportedly been concentrated in western Tigray, near the border of Sudan and Eritrea.
One eyewitness told AFP that families with young children were struggling to cross a river to reach Sudan.
“Women and children have been trying to cross,” said the witness, who asked not to be named.
UN refugee agency spokesperson Babar Baloch said there were “more than several hundred asylum seekers” at two border entry points in Sudan’s Gedaref state.
UNHCR was “mobilizing resources to provide lifesaving assistance,” Baloch said.
“The arrivals are being screened by the authorities and will be relocated from the border points to the existing reception center in Shagrab camp in Kassala state,” Baloch said.
Ethiopia’s Abiy on Tuesday signaled that the end of military operations was “coming within reach”, as the African Union called for an immediate cessation of the fighting.
But that has not stopped the flow of refugees.
Khaled said Sudanese efforts to help the refugees were stretched, and that they were awaiting support from international refugee agencies.