Biden administration announces visa restrictions for Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials, outraged over ongoing crisis in Tigray

Once again, the Biden administration on Sunday expressed what it described as “deepening concerns” about the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region “as well as other threats to the sovereignty, national unity, and territorial integrity of Ethiopia,” and announced a visa restriction for current and former Ethiopian and Eritrean government officials.

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“Today, I am announcing a visa restriction policy under Section 212(a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act on the issuance of visas for any current or former Ethiopian or Eritrean government officials, members of the security forces, or other individuals—to include Amhara regional and irregular forces and members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF)—responsible for, or complicit in, undermining resolution of the crisis in Tigray,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“This includes those who have conducted wrongful violence or other abuses against people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, as well as those who have hindered access of humanitarian assistance to those in the region. Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions. Should those responsible for undermining a resolution of the crisis in Tigray fail to reverse course, they should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community. We call on other governments to join us in taking these actions.

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“Additionally, we have imposed wide-ranging restrictions on economic and security assistance to Ethiopia and will bring our defense trade control policy in line with them. We will continue humanitarian assistance and certain other critical aid to Ethiopia in areas such as health, food security, basic education, support for women and girls, human rights and democracy, good governance, and conflict mitigation, consistent with available authorities. The United States will continue its existing broad restrictions on assistance to Eritrea,” Blinken added.

The United States top diplomat said “people in Tigray continue to suffer human rights violations, abuses, and atrocities, and urgently needed humanitarian relief is being blocked by the Ethiopian and Eritrean militaries as well as other armed actors.”

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Blinken said despite significant diplomatic engagement, the parties to the conflict in Tigray have taken “no meaningful steps to end hostilities or pursue a peaceful resolution of the political crisis.”

“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the killings, forced removals, systemic sexual violence, and other human rights violations and abuses. We are equally appalled by the destruction of civilian property including water sources, hospitals, and medical facilities, taking place in Tigray,” Blinken said.

He added: “We call on the Ethiopian government to meet public commitments to hold accountable all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, to protect civilians, and to ensure unhindered humanitarian access. We call for the Eritrean government to live up to its public commitment and immediately return its troops to internationally recognized Eritrean territory. Without an immediate cessation of hostilities and a rapid expansion of humanitarian access, current and significant food insecurity could lead to famine. The time for action from the international community is now.”

He said the United States “condemns in the strongest terms the killings, forced removals, systemic sexual violence, and other human rights violations and abuses. We are equally appalled by the destruction of civilian property including water sources, hospitals, and medical facilities, taking place in Tigray.

“We call on the Ethiopian government to meet public commitments to hold accountable all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, to protect civilians, and to ensure unhindered humanitarian access. We call for the Eritrean government to live up to its public commitment and immediately return its troops to internationally recognized Eritrean territory. Without an immediate cessation of hostilities and a rapid expansion of humanitarian access, current and significant food insecurity could lead to famine.”

The United States reiterated its calls for “a durable, political solution to the crisis. We are committed to supporting efforts to resolve the crisis in Tigray and help Ethiopians advance reconciliation and dialogue to overcome current divisions.”

The crisis in Tigray began last November with military confrontations between the Ethiopian troops and the the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). And despite diplomatic engagement by the United States and regional African leaders, not much has been achieved. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced within Ethiopia and tens of thousands have fled to Sudan. The government from Ethiopia and troops from Eritrea have blocked access to humanitarian assistance into Tigray, a situation the Biden administration has called “unacceptable.”

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