Ethiopia-Eritrea border sees families reunited after 20 years
A month after its opening, the Ethiopia–Eritrea border is bustling and filled with families that are reuniting, some after almost 20 years. For the last two decades, only soldiers, refugees, and rebels have moved through Ethiopia and across Eritrea’s closed border. The border officially reopened on 11 September, with border crossing points at Zalambesa and Rama.
According to a report by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), eighty-three per cent of Eritrean arrivals said they had crossed so they could reunite with family members. Stine Paus, Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, commented:
"We're seeing the fruits of peace one month on from the historic border reopening. Families previously divided by up to 20 years from the conflict, are celebrating joyful reunions. Trade is increasing in the border towns, as more people cross the border every day."
In addition to family reunions, the reopening of the border has been good for businesses as the long-closed border is now open to commerce. Business is booming for Ethiopian traders and Eritrean visitors, as many vehicles loaded with goods are crossing the border headed for the capital, Asmara.
Both countries' governments have said they hope the renewed trade links will boost their economies. The opening of the border was transformative for the local towns, specifically a strip of shops and restaurants damaged in the war and economically paralyzed by the border closure that now bustles with shoppers.
According to the NRC report, the arrival rate from Eritrea has risen sharply, from 53 to 390 people per day. The Ethiopian government agency ARRA continues to accept and register those that seek asylum as refugees, with more expected in the coming weeks. With this influx in refugees, more aid is needed for shelter, food and clean water for the reception centres, and the refugee camps that will accommodate them.
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Image Credit: Michael Tewelde, AFP