UNHCR seeking clarification of reports that people fleeing CAR denied entry to Chad

Briefing Notes, 13 June 2014

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 June 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is looking into reports from the Central African Republic that people seeking safety in Chad may recently have been turned back at a border entry point. We are in touch with the authorities in Chad at this time. UNHCR is also asking all neighbouring countries, Chad included, to keep borders open to allow refugees and other individuals access to safe haven.

Available information is that people fleeing CAR have been turned back at the Sido border entry point, south of the town of Sarh. Numbers are not clear. Those being turned back are said to either be CAR nationals or Chadians who failed to prove their nationality to border guards. If the reports are correct, it would be of serious concern and run contrary to the principle under international law of non-refoulement (no forced returns).

Violence in CAR is continuing to drive refugees to seek safety in Chad and elsewhere. In the last six months over 14,000 CAR refugees have arrived in Chad through various border entry points, bringing the total number of CAR refugees there to over 90,000. Some of these refugees have been in Chad for over 10 years.

Refugees arriving in Chad recently have been visibly suffering from hunger and exhaustion after trekking over five hundred kilometers on foot through bad roads and often hiding in the bush to avoid attacks. We have spoken to women, children and the elderly who have been on the move for months including from some areas near the capital Bangui. Children and adults alike are suffering severe malnutrition and are being transferred to a hospital in Gore in southwest Chad for urgent treatment.

Overall, the crisis that began in Central African Republic in December 2012 has so far caused the flight of some 226,000 refugees and third-country nationals into neighbouring countries. Internal displacement in CAR is currently estimated at 550,000, of whom 132,000 are in Bangui.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Bangui, Akatrina Kitidi on mobile : +236 72 68 4828
  • In N'djamena, Massoumeh Farman-Farmaian on mobile +235 68 000 530
  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards on mobile +41 79 557 9120
  • In Geneva, Babar Baloch on mobile +41 79 557-9106
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Edwige Deals With Loss by Keeping Busy and Aiding Others in Mole Camp

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After crossing the Oubangui River to the DRC, Edwige was transferred to Mole, a camp housing more than 13,000 refugees. In a bid to move on with her life and keep busy, she started to help others, assume a leadership role and take part in communal activities, including the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. She heads the women's committee, is engaged in efforts to combat sexual violence, and acts as a liaison officer at the health centre. She also teaches and runs a small business selling face creams. "I discovered that I'm not weak," said Edwige, who remains optimistic. She is sure that her country will come out of its nightmare and rebuild, and that she will one day become a human rights lawyer helping refugees.

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The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

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