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Chad: final stages in repatriation

Briefing Notes, 27 July 2001

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 July 2001, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is now engaged in the final stages of the repatriation of Chadian refugees from the West African region. A week ago, 288 refugees set out from Douala, Cameroon, to begin a one-week return journey that will include travel by train and truck convoy to southern Chad. Upon arrival at a Chadian transit centre, they received a five-month food ration from WFP, and blankets, kitchen tools and soap from UNHCR.

Most Chadian refugees in West Africa fled civil war in their country in the early eighties. Until 1994 they were granted prima facie refugee status, but after 1994 they had to undergo individual refugees status determination.

UNHCR last year was able to close two camps in northern Cameroon after all 4,500 refugees in the two camps were repatriated to Chad. This week's repatriation will be followed by a final one next week for some 500 urban refugees from Cameroon's capital, Yaoundé, bringing the total repatriated from Cameroon to 7,000. UNHCR estimates there are still some 40,000 Chadians in Cameroon, most of whom are believed to have integrated locally.

The repatriation to Chad reached a peak last year with a total of 18,000 refugees repatriated from the Central African Republic, and small numbers from Benin and Gabon. Chad is itself host to some 17,000 refugees, a majority rural refugees from Sudan settled in the east of the country.

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UNHCR country pages

Repatriation

UNHCR works with the country of origin and host countries to help refugees return home.

Portraits of Darfur's Refugees

Nearly 200,000 refugees, the majority of them women and children, have fled across the border from Sudan into Chad since the outbreak of conflict in Sudan's Darfur region in March 2003. The refugees have left behind their homes and often loved ones in Darfur, where militias have reportedly killed and raped villagers, looted and burned houses and possessions and driven people from their homes.

Most of the refugees in eastern Chad are sheltered in 11 camps established by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, where they receive humanitarian aid, shelter, water and basic services.

Life in the camps is not easy in the desert environment of eastern Chad, where water and firewood are extremely scarce. Sandstorms are a regular feature during the dry months and torrential rains flood the landscape in the wet season.

Yet in the faces of the refugees, dignity and hope remain in spite of the hardships and the violence they have suffered.

Portraits of Darfur's Refugees

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

Since fighting broke out in Sudan's western region of Darfur last year, more than 110,000 Sudanese refugees have fled into Chad. They are scattered along a 600-km stretch of desert borderland under a scorching sun during the day and freezing temperatures during the night.

Access to these refugees in this inhospitable region is difficult. Staff of the UN refugee agency drive for days to locate them. Bombing in the border zone and cross-border raids by militia from Sudan put the refugees at risk and underscore the urgent need to move them to camps in the interior. In addition, the approach of the rainy season in May will make the sandy roads impassable. Aid workers are racing against time in an attempt bring emergency relief to these refugees.

Chad: Relocation from the Border to Refugee Camps

Camp Life in Eastern Chad

Faced with nearly 200,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur fleeing into the barren desert of eastern Chad, the UN refugee agency has essentially had to build small villages – including shelter, latrines, water supply and basic services – to accommodate the refugees and help them survive in a hostile natural environment with scarce local resources. The 11 camps set up so far shelter more than 166,000 refugees from Darfur.

While much work still needs to be done, especially to find sufficient water in the arid region, life in the camps has reached a certain level of normalcy, with schools and activities starting up and humanitarian aid regularly distributed to the residents. Meanwhile, UNHCR continues to improve services and living conditions in the existing camps and is working to set up new camps to take in more refugees from the ongoing violence in Darfur.

Camp Life in Eastern Chad

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