CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

News Stories, 11 April 2014

© UNHCR/M.Poletto
CAR refugees who have arrived at the Gbiti transit center in Cameroon. Some 10,000 refugees a week are now streaming over the border from Central African Republic

GENEVA, April 11 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Friday it was extremely concerned by reports that anti-Balaka militiamen were blocking and attacking civilians trying to flee violence in the Central African Republic.

"Over the past two weeks, our colleagues in Cameroon have been seeing refugees arrive with wounds from machetes or gunshots," UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a news briefing.

She said UNHCR staff had also seen increasing numbers of people crossing into Cameroon via remote border entry points in an effort to evade the anti-Balaka militias. All are arriving in a terrible physical condition.

"New arrivals told our colleagues that anti-Balaka militias have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing them to wade through the bush for two to three months before reaching the border," she said. "The refugees also said that the anti-Balaka attacked them during their flight."

UNHCR staff in recent days have registered and treated a woman, a boy and a man with serious machete wounds, plus another man with a gunshot wound in the chest.

The majority of new arrivals all Muslims, the main target of the anti-Balaka militias -- are women, children and elderly people, Fleming said. They told UNHCR staff the men stayed in CAR to create self-defence groups to protect their community and their cattle.

"UNHCR is calling on the anti-Balaka to stop preventing civilians from fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety," Fleming told reporters. "We are also calling on all sides to the conflict to renounce violence."

Muslims have been the main target of the anti-Balaka militias but targeting of populations based on their religion by rival militias has affected both Christian and Muslim communities.

Despite the obstacles to their escape, an average of 10,000 people a week now cross from CAR into eastern Cameroon. With the main entry points at Garoua Boulai and Kenzou inaccessible because of anti-Balaka activities, people are using alternatives. This has increased the number of entry points into Cameroon from 12 to 27 over last three weeks, making it more difficult for UNHCR to monitor the border.

Most new arrivals are coming from the area of Boda, near the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bozoum, near Chad. Because of the long detour, all the refugees are arriving in a terrible state, some with swollen feet or legs and others suffering from malnutrition.

Working with its partners, the UN refugee agency has increased the number of mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. It is also supporting public health centers 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. They are now settled in sites set up at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

So far this year, Cameroon has received 69,389 refugees from CAR. This is on top of 92,000 who had fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

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Crisis in the Central African Republic

Little has been reported about the humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the Central African Republic (CAR), where at least 295,000 people have been forced out of their homes since mid-2005. An estimated 197,000 are internally displaced, while 98,000 have fled to Chad, Cameroon or Sudan. They are the victims of fighting between rebel groups and government forces.

Many of the internally displaced live in the bush close to their villages. They build shelters from hay, grow vegetables and even start bush schools for their children. But access to clean water and health care remains a huge problem. Many children suffer from diarrhoea and malaria but their parents are too scared to take them to hospitals or clinics for treatment.

Cattle herders in northern CAR are menaced by the zaraguina, bandits who kidnap children for ransom. The villagers must sell off their livestock to pay.

Posted on 21 February 2008

Crisis in the Central African Republic

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

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

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