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Chad: UNHCR concerned about violence in camps

Briefing notes

Chad: UNHCR concerned about violence in camps

13 May 2005

UNHCR is deeply concerned about violence in camps in Eastern Chad earlier this week which resulted in the deaths of four persons. The camps are now reported calm.

Clashes occurred in Goz Amer refugee camp on Wednesday, which resulted in the death of three refugees and one gendarme. Several people were also wounded, including two refugees, two aid workers from an NGO partner of UNHCR and one Chadian gendarme. The clashes were triggered by the arrest on Tuesday of refugees who were reportedly selling plastic sheeting at the local market within the camp. Chadian gendarmes, who are responsible for guarding the 12 refugee camps in Eastern Chad tried to prevent such sale and arrested three refugees.

In protest of the arrests in Goz Amer on Tuesday, a group of refugees from the camp set fire to a community centre on Wednesday morning in the nearby village of Koukou Angarana, provoking further clashes with the local gendarmes, and resulting in the deaths. UNHCR staff and NGO partners were able to safely leave the camp to Koukou Samgarana or Goz Beida until the situation stabilized.

UNHCR dispatched a team yesterday to our field office in Koukou Angarana to assess the situation and hold discussions with the refugee leaders and the local authorities. Goz Amer camp, which is located 217 kilometres south of Abéché, opened in April 2004 and presently hosts over 20,000 refugees. The situation had been calm for the past months in the camp and the region.

These incidents followed others violent clashes that occurred on Tuesday in the northern camp of Iridimi. A group of refugees armed with sticks and rocks provoked the evacuation of UNHCR and NGO workers from Iridimi camp, 240 kilometres north of Abéché. Refugees were protesting against the new registration of all individuals in the camp. We register people in camps to determine the exact number of refugees in the camp, and therefore to ensure that adequate assistance goes directly to the refugees themselves. Three refugees were seriously injured during clashes with the police and had to be hospitalized in N'Djamena. Five UNHCR staff as well as two NGO staff sustained minor injuries. Aid workers were also evacuated from Touloum, Mile and Kounoungo camps for security reasons.

The camps are now reported calm and UNHCR continues to meet with local and national authorities in Chad in order to ease tensions.

UNHCR is responsible for the protection and assistance of more than 210,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps in Eastern Chad. The refugees arrived in Chad in 2003/2004 after fleeing attacks from the janjaweed militia operating in Darfur.