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Chad issues first identity cards to Darfur refugees

Briefing notes

Chad issues first identity cards to Darfur refugees

2 June 2009

About 110,000 Sudanese refugees over the age of 18 in eastern Chad will receive identity cards under a new programme that started yesterday. The ID cards are the equivalent of a "refugee passport" allowing free movement within the host country and providing access to some basic in line with the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention.

UNHCR distributed the first 10 ID cards in a symbolic ceremony yesterday (Monday) in Gaga refugee camp, near Abeche, together with local authorities and the Chadian government's refugee commission (CNAR).

The ID cards, which are printed by UNHCR and issued by the government of Chad, were warmly welcomed by the refugees who said that they now feel protected and fully accepted in Chad.

Preparations for this joint initiative have been underway since the end of 2006. Identity and age verification exercises in all 12 camps in eastern Chad hosting some 250,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region were initially scheduled to start in 2008. However, due to lasting insecurity in eastern Chad, these activities began only in April this year. So far, we have processed some 37,000 refugees in Gaga and Farchana camps.

We plan to distribute all 110,000 ID cards by the end of this year, provided that the verification process is not interrupted again. Since the latest Chadian rebel incursion on 4 May, our regular daily access to refugee camps is still problematic due to security restrictions. For example, humanitarian convoys to Oure Cassoni refugee camp near Bahai last Friday had to be temporarily suspended after a military plane bombarded an area some 2 kms from the camp, which is close to the Sudanese border.

Meanwhile, refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in small groups in the village of Daha, in south-eastern Chad's Salamat region, as well as in the vicinity of Danamadji in southern Chad. They fled fearing new confrontations between rebel groups and the CAR army.

Some 17,000 CAR refugees found shelter in six spontaneous sites which sprung up in Daha and Massambagne villages since mid-January. In southern Chad, we now care for 73,000 refugees hosted in five refugee camps and six spontaneous sites. Our teams in this part of Chad provide protection and emergency assistance. We continue to distribute shelter material (plastic sheeting) and household items to all newly arrived families - mostly women and small children. UNHCR also supports the work of the local health centre.

Together with our partner agencies we secured refugee access to education and clean water and built latrines, and we are pre-positioning food-rations sufficient for six months. As of mid-June when the rainy season will start, the CAR refugees in south-eastern Chad will be basically cut off from assistance as it will be physically impossible to reach them.