UNHCR deploys additional emergency teams in Central African Republic

Briefing Notes, 17 December 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 17 December 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is sending additional protection and other teams to Central African Republic in view of the deteriorating situation there and reports of new displacement. Staff have begun arriving this week and more are on their way.

Bangui

In Bangui, our staff are reporting continued shooting and a mood of wide fear. Yesterday, the outskirts of Bangui, we came across some 40,000 people who had been uprooted on the 5th and 6th of December but who had been out of reach till now because of heavy fighting. In Bangui alone, we now believe that some 210,000 people have been displaced just in the last two weeks.

Amid the insecurity and food shortages many women and children from Bangui have fled across the Oubangui River to seek refuge in Zongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the border is officially closed, 1,815 people managed to cross into Zongo over the weekend, bringing to 3,292 the total number of CAR refugees to have arrived there since December 5th.

Many of the new arrivals report witnessing atrocities. They have also told us that displaced people camping at Bangui airport are planning to join them in Zongo. At Bangui airport, we have had to temporarily suspend aid distribution because of security incidents, some of which are related to sectarian violence.

Bossangoa and further north

In Bossangoa, 400 km northwest of Bangui, anti-Balaka groups looted shops and burned houses in the northern part of the town over the weekend. The area is largely populated by Muslims.

Some 5,600 people have become displaced since renewed fighting started between former Seleka fighters and armed anti-Balaka groups almost a fortnight ago. The newly displaced have joined the more than 4,000 already staying on the premises of the overcrowded Liberté school.

We continue to hear of attacks against Christians by former Seleka, with looting, killing and houses being set on fire. As well as at the school, since September 40,000 people have found sanctuary inside Bossangoa's sprawling Roman Catholic church. Tensions are reported at the church between the regional Africa force known as FOMAC and anti-Balaka youth who are resisting disarmament. The youth are armed with agricultural tools and machetes but have refused to surrender them.

UNHCR is extremely concerned by the presence of armed elements within sites hosting displaced people. We have requested French troops supported by FOMAC to step up patrols in troubled neighbourhoods and in the makeshift sites.

Anti-Balaka groups are reported to be threatening further attacks against ex-Seleka forces unless they disarm in and around the city of Paoua, located 131 kilometres from Bossangoa and near the Chadian border.

In Beboura, 30 km northeast of Paoua, ex-Seleka reportedly clashed with an armed group calling itself Groupe de Revendication pour la Paix (GRP). Hundreds of civilians have gone hiding into the bushes, while others have left their cars and motorbikes at the FOMAC base for fear of seeing them looted.

More than 710, 000 people have been uprooted within CAR since the current crisis began a year ago, while over 75,000 others have fled into exile.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva: Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Central African Republic: Urgent Appeal

You can help save the lives of thousands of refugees

Donate to this crisis

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

The violence and conflict in the Central African Republic has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since mid-December. Many have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, including 80,000 in Cameroon. During the trauma and confusion of flight, families often become separated. They face many dangers on the way to safety, and their journey can take many weeks. Ramatou, a 45-year-old mother of 11 children, was separated from three of her sons and her husband when militiamen attacked her village in January. She ran in one direction with eight children and eventually made it to Cameroon with the help of African Union peace-keepers. Her husband and three sons ran in a different direction and endured many ordeals in the bush, becoming separated again. Earlier this month, Ramatou was reunited in Cameroon's Mbile Refugee Camp with the two youngest boys. She was overjoyed, but dismayed that they were on their own. She still hopes for her husband and eldest son to turn up. Photographer Fred Noy was there at the emotional reunion.

A Central African Refugee's Reunion With Her Sons Brings Joy and Sorrow

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

Over the past month, almost 6,300 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have left the Batalimo camp in the troubled Central African Republic and returned voluntarily to their homes in Equateur province. Their decision to go back is a further sign of the gravity of the situation in Central African Republic, where escalated violence since December has left hundreds of thousands internally displaced and forced almost 350,000 to flee to neighbouring countries. The refugees at Batalimo were among some 20,000 Congolese who had fled to the Central African Republic to escape inter-ethnic conflict back home. The return operation from Batalimo had been postponed several times for security and logistical reasons, but on April 10 the first convoy headed across the Oubangui River. The last arrived in the DRC on May 10. The UN refugee agency organized transportation of the refugees from Batalimo to the Central African Republic riverside town of Zinga, where they boarded boats for the crossing to Batanga or Libenge in Equateur province. In Batanga, the returnees were registered, provided with documentation and given a cash grant to help them reintegrate. They were then transported to their villages, where they will be monitored. Photographer Leonora Baumann followed one group back to the DRC.

Batalimo to Batanga and Beyond: Congolese Return Home from CAR

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

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African RefugeesPlay video

Joint Appeal: Help Needed for Central African Refugees

The UN refugee agency and its partners appealed for more donor support to cope with the continuing outflow and deteriorating condition of refugees from the Central African Republic.
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.