Forced displacement from CAR continuing amid widespread lawlessness

Briefing Notes, 13 August 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 13 August 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is continuing to see forced displacement within and from Central African Republic. Inside CAR itself there are now an estimated 206,000 Internally Displaced People. Since mid-July we have seen an additional 4,125 refugees arriving in the Moissala area of southern Chad.

There are now 62,714 refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries since the latest CAR crisis erupted last December 40,500 of these in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 13,087 in Chad, 4,841 in Republic of Congo, and 4,286 in Cameroon.

UNHCR remains extremely concerned over the situation inside CAR, with continuing reports of lawlessness and insecurity in many areas. In Bangui, a local UN staff member was the victim of an attack by rogue Seleka elements on Sunday night. They raided his home at midnight, ordered him to give them money, then took his bike and shot him in the chest. He is now recovering from the wound. Another local UN staff member was seriously wounded and her husband killed during a similar incident a week ago. Such night attacks in Bangui have become increasingly common.

In rural areas, widespread fear is reported among the civilian population, who are responding in some cases by organizing vigilante groups. Clashes between the local population and elements of Seleka took place in the morning yesterday and the day before at Beboura, a village located 30 km from Paoua, a town near the Chadian border. The exact toll is still unknown but wounded people have been transported to a hospital in Paoua. This past weekend we also received reports of two people having been killed by armed men allegedly affiliated to Seleka in Bossangoa, in the northwest prefecture of Ouham. Thirty other people were reported killed by the Seleka in the same area.

Access for humanitarian workers remains difficult, although we now have better access to the refugee camps at Bambari, Batalimo, and Zemio in central and southern CAR which together host 11,252 mainly Congolese and Sudanese refugees. We completed a second round of food distribution in the camps last week, coupled with distribution of mosquito nets, blanket, plastic sheeting and kitchen sets for 8,000 refugees and 796 vulnerable people in the host population.

UNHCR is again calling on the CAR government to do more to ensure the safety of people and their property across the country, to avert further displacement and suffering.

We are also appealing to public and private donors to support this forgotten crisis. As of last Friday, our CAR operation was less than 30 per cent funded. We have so far received US$ 8 million out of the US$ 28.8 million required to help refugees in neighbouring countries.

For more information, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba at +41 79 249 34 83
  • In CAR: Djerassem Mbaiorem at +236 72 22 35 11
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2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Central African Republic: Crossing the Oubangui to Home and Safety

The escalating violence in Central African Republic (CAR) has caught everyone in its web, including refugees from countries such as Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). For the Congolese living in places like the CAR capital, Bangui, or the town of Batalimo, home was just a short trip away across the Oubangui River. UNHCR earlier this year agreed to help those who wished to repatriate due to fear for their safety. The refugee agency has since mid-January facilitated the return home of hundreds of these refugees. The following photographs, taken earlier this month by UNHCR staff members Dalia Al Achi and Hugo Reichenberger, depict the repatriation of a group of 364 Congolese. The refugees portrayed were heading to the riverside town of Zongo in Democratic Republic of the Congo's Equateur province, where they spent a night in a transit centre before continuing to their hometowns. They were relieved to be leaving, and some were in poor health. The decision to return to the country they had fled during the years of civil war from 1996-2003 was not easy. Some 6,000 of the 17,000 Congolese refugees in Central African Republic have registered with UNHCR to go home.

Central African Republic: Crossing the Oubangui to Home and Safety

The Most Important Thing: Central African Republic Refugees

Over the past year, the UN refugee agency has run a series of photosets on its website by American photographer Brian Sokol focusing on the possessions that refugees take with them when they are forced to flee from their homes. We started last August with Sudanese refugees in South Sudan and have since covered refugees from Syria and Mali.

Last year, Sokol visited the northern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to ask refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) the same question: What is the most important thing you brought with you? He again received interesting answers from a wide range of people from rural and urban areas of CAR, where inter-communal violence has spiralled out of control. They are featured here and include a sandal that helped an old woman, a pair of crutches used by a man to reach safety and a boy's photo of his slain father. Another boy named the family members who escaped to safety with him as his most important possession - many would feel the same.

Tens of thousands of people have fled from CAR to neighbouring countries since December 2012, including 60,000 into northern DRC. Some 30,000 of them live in four refugee camps set up by UNHCR and the others are hosted by local families. For the majority, there was no time to pack before escaping. They fled extreme violence and chaos and arrived exhausted and traumatized in the DRC. They could take only the most essential and lightest belongings. The photos here were taken at Batanga Transit Centre, Boyabo Refugee Camp and Libenge village.

The Most Important Thing: Central African Republic Refugees

UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR  and CameroonPlay video

UNHCR's Dr. Paul Spiegel on the Border of CAR and Cameroon

This video was shot by one of our staff* using a mobile phone as they helped refugees who had crossed the river to safety.
Central African Republic: Torn CommunitiesPlay video

Central African Republic: Torn Communities

For more than a year, inter-communal strife has displaced tens of thousands of people in the Central African Republic. But amid the violence, efforts are being made to promote reconciliation.
Central African Republic : Bangui Airport RefugePlay video

Central African Republic : Bangui Airport Refuge

UNHCR's High Commissioner António Guterres visits Central African Republic and meets internally displaced people in Bangui airport. He says the international community needs to give the CAR crisis the same focus as the emergencies in Syria and South Sudan.