Influx of Central African Republic refugees to eastern Chad

Briefing Notes, 30 January 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 30 January 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

More than 4,500 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have recently arrived in south-eastern Chad fleeing attacks from rebel groups and in anticipation of further fighting between government forces and rebels in the northern part of the country.

On Wednesday, a joint UN humanitarian mission supported by the UN peacekeeping force MINURCAT and EUFOR visited the Chadian village of Daha near the CAR border.

Most of the new refugees are women and children. They arrived in Daha in two waves a first group of about 200 local government workers who left their villages out of fear after rebels invaded their village in the Ngarba area in late December. The second group of over 4,000 people fled their villages on January 16-17 in anticipation of imminent attacks between CAR governmental forces and rebels. The refugees told us that they believe the rebel group is still controlling the area, making it unsafe for them to return.

The new arrivals are mostly farmers and originate from about 20 villages in northern CAR close to the Chadian border. They seemed to be in good health. Twelve refugee babies have been born over the past two weeks in Daha. The refugees, who arrived with nothing, are in desperate need of food and other assistance. All reserves in the local health centre are depleted and there is no food left in the market. Residents of Daha, which has about 4,000 residents, have shared some of their food and water. The refugees are staying under trees, sleeping in the open.

UNHCR will assist the refugees with emergency aid and provide them with plastic sheeting and other basic aid items as soon as possible. A major challenge is simply reaching such a remote area. On Wednesday, it took 3 hours by MINURCAT helicopter from UNHCR's main base in Abéché, eastern Chad. Once the rainy season starts in May, roads will become impassable and the refugees will be inaccessible.

In another worrisome development, the security situation in Abéché has been seriously deteriorating over the past two weeks. UNHCR and other UN agencies based there have suffered multiple attacks by small groups of armed bandits. There have been three attacks on the houses of UNHCR staff members and three on the UNHCR compound. No one has been hurt in the attacks. No one has been arrested.

In eastern Chad, we provide assistance to 250,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur, in 12 refugee camps. In the south, there are five UNHCR camps hosting 56,000 refugees from the CAR.

• 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

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.
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.