Ethiopia: Travel ban imposed against Tigray passengers

An air travel ban has been imposed for passengers flying via Ethiopian Airlines from Mekelle, the capital of the northern Tigray region to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, credible sources told Sudan Tribune.

The new travel restriction comes less than two weeks after Ethiopian Airlines resumed passenger flight operations to the war-torn Tigray region over two years.

Any passenger was allowed to travel between Mekelle and Addis Ababa since commercial flights resumed to Tigray on 28 December following a November peace deal signed between Tigray regional authorities and the federal government of Ethiopia.

The fragile peace deal had allowed restoration to long-halted basic services including air travel, electricity, access to bank services, telephone and internet.

Despite the commended developments, an unexpected travel ban however is now imposed against all people aged between 16 and 65 who intend to fly out of the Tigray region.

Per the new travel restrictions, only the elderly, children and patients with medical referral letters can only fly out of Tigray to the Ethiopian capital.

The ban means, the hundreds if not thousands of Tigrayan youths who have recently flown to Tigray via Ethiopian Airlines to reunite with their families won’t be able to return back to Addis Ababa where they reside.

Passengers learnt about the travel ban during the weekend when dozens of Tigrayan youth who had bought air tickets in advance went to Mekele Airport to fly but only to be denied boarding access by Ethiopian Airlines.

According to eyewitnesses, a large number of passengers who were denied boarding were seen sitting at the airport kept waiting for hours.

It is not yet clear why such a travel ban – which mostly targeted the youth was imposed after an AU-brokered peace deal that ended a two-year bloody conflict which has claimed over half a million people.

But when asked for reasons on why the ban was imposed, security guards at Mekelle Alula Abanega International airport said “it was an order from the federal government” without giving any further details.

Speaking to a local radio station, Tigray officials said they were not aware of the matter and said they will discuss it with federal officials.

Professor Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a representative of the Tigray government External Affairs Office, did not immediately respond to Sudan Tribune’s requests for comment.

Neither the Ethiopian government nor Ethiopian Airlines have said anything about the travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, ethnic Tigrayans passengers who made it from Mekelle to Addis Ababa today were being taken to a “special” place for investigation and registration of their specific addresses.

Source: Sudan Tribune