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Chad: Central Africans relocated, High Commissioner's mission

Briefing notes

Chad: Central Africans relocated, High Commissioner's mission

26 August 2005

UNHCR has begun moving some of the thousands of refugees newly arrived in southern Chad from the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) to the Amboko refugee settlement. The transfer began on Tuesday with two convoys departing from the village of Bekoninga, where most of the refugees have been staying since their arrival in Chad. Thus far, more than 800 refugees have been transferred to Amboko refugee settlement to join approximately 21,000 other refugees from CAR already there.

The relocation is necessary so that we can provide the refugees with better assistance. The transfer of all new arrivals is expected to take two weeks. When it is complete, Amboko camp will have reached its full capacity of 27,000 people. Repair and upgrading work of Amboko's water distribution system and latrines was undertaken to accommodate this new influx. Discussions are underway with the authorities to identify a new site, hopefully close to Amboko in order to fully exploit the settlement's social infrastructure and services.

Finding a new camp is a high priority for our staff on the ground to allow them to cope with any new influx from CAR. Over the weekend, we learned of the arrival of a further 300 new refugees from CAR. However, an inter-agency team dispatched to the spontaneous settlement at Matiti found that only 40 refugees remained. The others, according to various sources, had returned to CAR, possibly to collect their belongings.

Over the past two weeks, some 4,000 people have crossed the border from CAR into Chad. This is the second major wave of CAR refugees to south Chad this year. In June and July, some 10,000 CAR refugees arrived in Chad following clashes between government forces and unidentified armed groups. Approximately half of the new arrivals cite insecurity in their villages as the reason for leaving. Reference is made particularly to incidents on 7 and 9 August in the Paoua region of northern CAR. Some of the refugees cite conflicts over land and livestock with cattle breeders of a different ethnic origin as their reason for departure. This is the first time that such conflicts have been advanced as the reason for flight. The high level of insecurity prevailing along the Chad/CAR border triggered re-activation last week of the joint protocol between Chadian and CAR on cross-border security, which includes joint border patrols.

There are now more than 35,000 refugees from CAR in southern Chad, most of them hosted in Amboko and Yaroungou refugee camps. The majority have been in Chad since 2003, after fleeing a military coup in CAR. Chad also plays host to more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region in 12 camps in the eastern part of the country.

Meanwhile, High Commissioner António Guterres is in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena today to meet the president and senior government officials as he continues his 10-day visit to oversee UNHCR's operations in the Sudan/Chad region. Yesterday, the High Commissioner was in the east of the country where he visited one of the 12 camps for over 200,000 Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region. Tomorrow, (Saturday), Mr. Guterres is scheduled to fly to southern Sudan where he will spend two days seeing for himself preparations for the repatriation of some half a million south Sudanese refugees who have been in seven neighbouring asylum countries.