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Chad: Air strikes and armed raids underscore UNHCR concern for camp security

Briefing notes

Chad: Air strikes and armed raids underscore UNHCR concern for camp security

27 March 2007 Also available in:

We are very concerned by recent insecurity in areas surrounding some of our refugee camps in eastern Chad. On Sunday, immediately following a visit to Kounoungou refugee camp by President Idriss Deby Itno - during which he promised to improve security in the region - armed men raided a market close to the camp and beat several refugees. The incident appears to have been between two tribal groups. At least five men and nine women were assaulted. Some of them were transported to the hospital in Guéréda, the nearest town, for treatment of head injuries. Kounougou camp hosts over 13,000 refugees from the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan.

Last Thursday, a plane described by witnesses as a Sudanese Antonov, bombed areas north and south of the north-eastern Chadian town of Bahai. The air strikes included the area around Lake Cariari, several kilometres from the Oure Cassoni refugee camp. Oure Cassoni hosts nearly 27,000 Sudanese refugees. While no refugees were injured, several Chadian civilians and two humanitarian workers from an international NGO were wounded. This is not the first time that air strikes have occurred near Oure Cassoni, which is only 5 km from the Sudanese border. Air strikes were reported over a two-day period in early January 2007 and in October 2006. UNHCR has been seeking agreement from the refugees and Chadian authorities to move the camp further from the border.

These two recent incidents again highlight the precariousness of the security situation in the region for refugees, for displaced Chadians, for the local population and for humanitarian workers.

There are more than 220,000 Sudanese refugees in 12 UNHCR camps in eastern Chad. Increasing general insecurity, coupled with violent inter-communal fighting in the past year and a half, also resulted in the internal displacement of 120,000 Chadians, mainly in the south-east.

Across the border in West Darfur, meanwhile, a total of 730 Chadian refugees have been transported since last week from the Sudanese border town Arara to UNHCR's Um Shalaya refugee camp. The camp is located about 75 km from the volatile border. UNHCR, together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), organized three separate convoys last week which undertook the two-day journey over a distance of 136 km.

The third and last convoy, carrying 208 passengers, reached Um Shalaya camp on Saturday. Um Shalaya camp is now hosting 4,560 Chadian refugees. But UNHCR estimates that there are still some 16,000 Chadian refugees on the Darfur side of the border. Most of them wish to remain near the border so they can have access to their homes and property inside Chad.

In addition to the presence of 20,000 Chadian refugees in West Darfur, there are over 2 million internally displaced people in the whole of Darfur.