Chad, UNHCR prepare to relocate recent arrivals
GORE, Chad, March 4 (UNHCR) - Hundreds of people continue fleeing into Chad amid reports of killings and atrocities in the Central African Republic (CAR). The Chadian government is moving them away from the border before relocating them to a new site now being cleared by the UN refugee agency.
The influx into Chad has slowed down in recent days with a daily count of 100-150 new arrivals, down from a daily high of 1,000 people last week. This figure only includes people entering through the main border crossings, and does not take into account the many more who could be entering Chad through smaller border points.
In all, there are now more than 26,000 people gathered in at least six locations along the Chad/CAR border, including more than 12,000 Central African refugees and 14,000 Chadians who had migrated to CAR.
The government of Chad has sent three trucks to move them from the border villages to the south-western border town of Goré. From here, the refugees will be taken to a site 35 km away that the government has set aside to build a new refugee camp. UNHCR has so far cleared 8 hectares of forest for the site.
Returning Chadians who wish to go back to their areas of origin will be transported home.
Meanwhile, UNHCR staff who visited nine border villages over the past few days have received reports of killings and atrocities in western CAR. A local official from Nia-Pende, a district near Paoua in north-western CAR, said that all 45 villages within his district were deserted. The nearby town of Bossangoa - once home to some 25,000 people - was also said to be empty. The villagers are believed to be hiding in the bush or have crossed into Chad to escape rebel attacks.
According to the recent arrivals in Chad, some villagers were killed and their houses burnt down by rebels loyal to the former Central African army chief, François Bozizé. Some of the villagers hiding in the bush, including children, were hunted down and killed as well, said the refugees in an account that was echoed by several new arrivals in the Chadian border area.
In one Chadian border village, host to 400 Central African refugees, at least 20 women have said they were separated from their children when they fled from rebels. The whereabouts of their children are still unknown.
The returning Chadians, on the other hand, say they are fleeing from the Central African army that is supported by rebels of the Congolese MLC (Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo).
It has been impossible to verify reports about the situation in northern CAR as the area has been off limits to the international community for several months now.