UNHCR sends teams to monitor situation in Darfur's border villages
ABECHE, Chad, Aug 31 (UNHCR) - In a bid to improve coverage and protection of people uprooted by the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, the UN refugee agency has sent teams to monitor the situation near the Chad-Sudan border on the Sudanese side and enlisted the Chadian government's help to ensure security in refugee camps in eastern Chad.
More than 1 million people are believed to be displaced within western Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region while another 188,000 have crossed the border to Chad to escape the conflict and attacks by Janjaweed militia.
Last weekend, UNHCR sent two teams to Suleha and Arara villages in West Darfur, near the border with Chad, to assess the situation of the internally displaced Sudanese and overall security conditions, as well as to check if any refugees have returned to these villages from Chad.
To get a better picture of the displaced population in the border area, UNHCR will also work with Italian non-governmental organisation INTERSOS. The NGO will look at the numbers of displaced people along the border, their gender breakdown, the villages from which they fled, and try to identify particularly vulnerable individuals in need of extra assistance.
In neighbouring Chad, UNHCR and the Chadian government this morning signed an agreement to maintain security and ensure the civilian nature of the nine refugee camps and surrounding areas.
"In keeping with UNHCR standards, the agreement recognises the overall responsibility of the Chadian government for security in the camps and lays out the obligation of the Sudanese refugees themselves to respect the laws of the host country," said UNHCR spokesman Rupert Colville at a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
The government has agreed to deploy 180 specially trained members of the gendarmerie in the nine camps, which in total now host some 160,000 refugees. Another estimated 28,000 Sudanese refugees are believed to be living near the border or in makeshift sites in eastern Chad.
Among their duties, the gendarmes will ensure that no armed person is allowed to enter the refugee camps. They will also make sure that refugees themselves are not involved in any activity that could compromise the civilian character of the camps. In addition, they will carry out periodic inspections of the camps and provide protection of the camp infrastructure as well as food and other stocks.