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Fresh wave of Central African refugees in south Chad

Briefing notes

Fresh wave of Central African refugees in south Chad

19 August 2005

Over the last eight days some 4,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have crossed the border into South Chad, according to the Chadian authorities. The new arrivals told UNHCR they were fleeing attacks by unidentified armed groups on August 7 and 9 on villages in the Paoua region, including in Badatongo, Bebigui, Bedaya, Bedogo, Yene and Paoua.

This is the third major wave of CAR refugees to South Chad. In June and July this year, some 10,000 CAR refugees crossed the border following clashes between government forces and unidentified armed groups. And, in 2003, about 30,000 refugees crossed into Chad after a military coup.

On Tuesday, a joint assessment mission of UNHCR, WFP [World Food Programme], COOPI [Cooperazione Internazionale] (UNHCR's implementing partner) and the government refugee body, CNAR (Commission Nationale d'Accueil et de Réinsertion des Réfugiés) drove to the villages of Bekoninda, Bala, Beyoko and Kaba located at the border some 40 kilometres south of Goré, the main town in South Chad, to meet the refugees.

The refugees told the mission they fled lootings and fear of violence, in CAR. In Bekoninda, the refugees are being sheltered in classrooms or in the homes of local inhabitants who are also generously sharing their food with them. Another group of refugees is being hosted in a warehouse offered by the chief of the village of Bala.

Three cases of minor malnourishment have been diagnosed by COOPI, but on the whole the health situation of the refugees is stable, although it could quickly deteriorate if the refugees remain at the volatile border.

A UNHCR protection team, working with CNAR, is already on the ground for screening and pre-registering the refugees. Relocation will take place after the Chadian government allocates a new site for the transfer of the new arrivals. Amboko, the closest refugee camp to the border, already hosts 20,000 refugees - including 7,000 who were relocated last July from the border after fleeing clashes in CAR in June. But, the remaining free space in the camp is currently being used for agricultural activities of the refugees. We are working with the Chadian government on evaluating the possibility of a new site, preferably near Amboko.

To get a fuller picture of the situation in CAR that is causing the refugee outflow, a UN Inter-agency mission visited the refugees' villages of origin in northern CAR last week. We expect the findings of the mission in the coming days.

There are now more than 45.000 refugees from the CAR in southern Chad, most of them hosted in Amboko and Yaroungou refugee camps.

Chad is also hosting over 200,000 Sudanese refugees from the Darfur region in 12 camps in the eastern part of the country.