Civilians fleeing clashes in CAR moved to Chad refugee camp

Briefing Notes, 7 May 2010

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 7 May 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In a remote southern part of Chad, we began this week the transfer of some 1,100 newly arrived Central African refugees from the border to a refugee camp where we can assist them. These refugees crossed into southern Chad's Moyen Chari province two weeks ago, after violence forced them from villages in northern Central African Republic (CAR).

The refugees fled clashes between the CAR army and rebels in Sido area from where they walked some 60 kilometres before reaching the Chadian border. We are relocating them to the Moula camp some 180 km further southwest. We moved the first group of 204 refugees on Wednesday and we plan to complete the transfer by early next week. Because of poor road conditions, it takes our convoys an entire day to reach Moula, which currently holds more than 4,000 Central Africans.

Most of the newly arrived refugees are women, children and young men. They reported to our staff that the fighters were looting, stealing animals and abusing civilians. Two refugee men showed our staff rope burns on their elbows. Some among the group are traumatized and say that they are not ready to return to CAR. They also reported that their villages were virtually empty by the time they fled.

The ongoing army offensive in the Sido area has been under way since mid-April. We don't have figures for the total number of people displaced, but in the last few days we've had reports of new displacement of around 2,500 civilians. About 1,000 of these have reached a site for internally displaced persons in the town of Kabo, 400 kilometers north of the CAR capital, Bangui. They lack water, food and shelter, although some are living with relatives. Others are hiding in the bush and more could try to cross into Chad.

Insecurity in northern CAR over the past five years has left close to 200,000 people internally displaced in the seven prefectures of the north-western, northern and north-eastern regions of CAR. A similar number has fled to neighboring countries.