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Workers fear returning to work in Ethiopia’s war-torn Tigray region

15 April, 2021Of the more than 2,000 workers employed in the Mekelle Industrial Park, only 700 have returned to work because of security concerns from the on-going war, which broke out on 4 November 2020.

The park was closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, before war broke out.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the IndustriALL Federation of Textile, Leather and Garment Workers Trade Union (IFTLGTWU), which organizes the textile, garment, shoe, and leather workers in Mekelle, says it has been difficult to reach its members and their families.

Phone lines, the internet and other means of telecommunications were unavailable for many days when the civil war between the federal army and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began.


Garment and textile factories were looted and destroyed. These include Almeda, Sheba Leather, and DBL garments. The Almeda factory, which employed over five thousand workers, was looted, and destroyed. The other two factories were ransacked. Thousands of jobs will be lost if the factories do not reopen.

Media reports have pointed to killings, rape and looting which is being attributed to different armed groups involved in the conflict including militias and the army from neighbouring Eritrea. According to the reports, homes, clinics, hospitals, health centres, schools, and grain stores were destroyed or looted, and fields burnt.

This has created a humanitarian crisis in which people are starving and in need of food, water, and shelter. Thousands have fled their homes and the government of Ethiopia and UN agencies have appealed for emergency support.

The Ethiopian prime minister said in parliament that gross human rights violations and abuses will be investigated by the Ethiopian Human Right Commission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Council.

“We call upon the government of Ethiopia to provide peace and security to the people and the workers of Tigray. It is important that the armed conflict is ended so that workers can go back to work without fear and that communities can go back to living in peace,”

says Valter Sanches, IndustriALL general secretary.