UNHCR alarmed over consequences for refugees of political upheaval in Chad
GENEVA, Apr 13 (UNHCR) - High Commissioner António Guterres said his agency was alarmed over the current violence in Chad and the possible consequences for the security and welfare of refugees from Sudan's Darfur region in camps in the east of the country.
"I urgently appeal to all sides in this political upheaval to respect the civilian character of the refugee camps and to leave in peace those who have already fled the terrors of Darfur," Guterres said.
Fighting was reported on Thursday between government and rebel forces in the capital N'Djamena, along with clashes in Adré in the east of the country, close to some of UNHCR's 12 refugee camps. The situation in the camps was reported calm on Thursday morning.
After a large armed group entered and briefly took control of the Goz Amer refugee camp on Monday afternoon, UNHCR and partners started to reduce staffing levels in some field offices, but are still maintaining essential services in the camps.
UNHCR is also reviewing its overall staffing levels in the country in the wake of the fighting in the capital, and an evacuation of non-essential personnel and dependants is planned.
The High Commissioner has warned in recent months that the unrest on both sides of the Sudan-Chad border was posing a growing risk to civilians, the displaced, aid workers and to overall regional stability. The Chadian government has accused Sudan of aiding rebel groups.
Forced recruitment in March by unidentified armed groups in two refugee camps - Breidjing and Treguine - located between Abéché, eastern Chad's capital, and the border town of Adré, was strongly condemned by the UN refugee agency. Earlier in March, there were reports of forced recruitment in Kounougou camp, near the town of Guéréda.
Following these incidents UNHCR held high-level meeting with the Chadian authorities, stressing that the civilian character of the camps must be maintained at all times and reminding them that the primary responsibility for ensuring the security of the refugee camps on its territory rested with the Chadian government. The government promised to increase the deployment of gendarmes around the camps to prevent the entry of armed groups or individuals.
In southern Chad there are some 46,000 refugees from the Central African Republic sheltering in three sites. There have been no disturbances related to the current political upheaval noted around these refugee areas.