Skilled Central African workers, students and professionals find shelter in Chad

News Stories, 5 March 2014

© UNHCR/M.Farman-Farmaian
A group of Central African Republic refugees on arrival at N'Djamena after being evacuated from Bangui by aircraft.

N'DJAMENA, Chad, March 5 (UNHCR) In the past three months, the government of Chad has evacuated about 16,000 people to N'Djamena from the Central African Republic amid mounting violence and religious persecution in the neighbouring country.

Most of those brought to the Chad capital have been Chadian nationals or refugees, but more than 1,000 are from the Central African Republic and some other countries, mainly educated people from urban areas. They managed to board flights out of Bangui during the confusion of evacuation. These flights were suspended by Chad on February 20, but people continue to arrive overland.

UNHCR and the National Commission for the Reception and Reintegration of Refugees and Returnees have been interviewing and pre-registering these people at eight transit centres in N'Djamena, including the Transit Centre No. 3 in the city's Paris-Congo area.

"Many have already left, but many have no place to go," said Dario Neloumia, who heads the crowded centre, while adding that it currently hosts about 600 people.

The refugee agency facilitates transfer to refugee camps in southern Chad for those who want it, such as 35-year-old Yaya, who worked for a multinational in Bangui to help put him through a Sociology degree as a mature student. "I have a year to go," said the Central African, a Muslim like most of those who have fled to Chad.

Those who don't want to go to camps like Dosseye near the southern border with Central African Republic can remain in N'Djamena, living with host families or in rented accommodation. The government is considering opening special sites for those who wish to stay but cannot afford to. UNHCR staff monitor all registered refugees.

The conditions in Transit Centre No. 3, or TC3, are not great, but at least the new arrivals feel safe and far away from the violence and danger in Bangui, where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and many are in need. Several other countries have evacuated their nationals, while UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration have repatriated hundreds of refugees so far this year.

There is a pungent odour of human waste in TC3. Children are everywhere and women sit on straw mats guarding the few possessions they have managed to save: bedding, pots, battered or broken suitcases.

Yaya was able to board one of the evacuation flights by chance after being sent to the airport by his company to help load an air shipment. "There were thousands of people waiting to get on a plane," he recalled. "I was loading luggage and managed to stay on a cargo flight carrying Chadian property from the embassy [in Bangui] back to N'Djamena."

Like many others, Yaya would like to return home one day. "Right now, there is too much hatred and fighting," he said. "I saw a message on Facebook from someone I know at home. It said, 'Now that you Muslims are out, we feel like real Central Africans.' How can we live together like this?"

For now, Yaya has decided to transfer to a camp. "I need to settle first and think things through. I will probably have to come back to N'Djamena to find a job," he said, adding that he would need to earn a living to support himself and members of his extended family, who are expected to arrive in southern Chad soon. His wife is also in N'Djamena, but in a different transit centre, and they hope to reunite in Dosseye camp.

Yaya is one of the many urban educated who have arrived in Chad, adding a new dimension to the profile of the Central African Republic refugee population, which consists largely of farmers and livestock herders in the camps of the south.

Nurses, students, teachers, NGO workers and many others are among those who have recently arrived from Bangui. UNHCR is exploring appropriate ways to assist this group of skilled personnel, including through education and employment opportunities.

"If we seize the opportunity and let refugees put their skills to use, not only will they quickly regain their dignity and independence, but they will also be able to contribute to the development of their new environment," Aminata Gueye, UNHCR's representative in Chad, stressed.

*Name changed for protection reasons.

By Massoumeh Farman-Farmaian in N'Djamena, Chad

• 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.
Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
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.