Cameroon: some 20,000 more CAR refugees in three weeks

Briefing Notes, 21 February 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Dan McNorton to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 21 February 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The number of refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) has sharply increased this month in Cameroon, as violence continues to rip through the country.

Since the beginning of February a total of 19,565 refugees from CAR have crossed into Cameroon to escape violence perpetrated by the former Seleka and anti-Balaka militiamen in Bangui and other towns in north-western CAR. This is up from 4,764 CAR refugees in the first week of the month.

The latest influx brings to 35,142 the total number of CAR refugees who have fled to Cameroon since March 2013, when the Seleka rebels came to power in CAR amid reports of gross human rights violations.

Our colleagues in Garoua Boulay in eastern Cameroon witnessed the arrival on 16 February of 100 trucks carrying civilians from CAR. Additionally, some 3,000 people have been reported to have crossed the border into the town of Yokadouma in the south-east of Cameroon. They are coming from Bangui and mainly from localities such as Bossemptele, Bouar, Baboua, Beloko, Carnot, Boaro, Gambala, Berberati and Nola in the west of CAR.

We started on Monday the registration of those new arrivals in Garoua Boulay, and our colleagues are in Yokadouma to verify new arrivals.

Moreover, the growing number of new arrivals and their need for food and other basic necessities (cooking oil, rice, cassava, fish, beef, vegetables, sugar, salt, soap, fuel and other items) have resulted in higher prices and shortage of goods on the local market. Local residents are also feeling the pinch with rent increases.

New arrivals from CAR are living in appalling conditions. Most of them lack food and shelter. Generous host communities have taken in many people, but they cannot share their homes and resources with everyone.

We began to move refugees from Garoua Boulay to the new site at Mborguene, which can host up to 10,000 people.

Meanwhile, we are also looking at another site in Lolo, 46 kilometers from the border in the eastern region, which can take up to 15,000 refugees.

In separate development, 7,921 third-country nationals (TCN) arrived in Cameroon from CAR, and are mainly Chadian, Malian, Mauritanian, and Nigeriens. They are being repatriated by their embassies to their country of origin. As of today, 2,774 TCN have been repatriated, including 2,702 Chadians, 49 Malians, 1 Mauritanian and 22 Nigeriens.

Before the current crisis, Cameroon was hosting 92,000 refugees from CAR; the first started to arrive in 2006 to escape from rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

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