Central African Republic: Recent arrivals in Chad transferred, thousands more feared displaced in north-west

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In southern Chad, 277 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) who crossed the border last week fleeing attacks on the north-western town of Ngaoundaye by what they described as a rebel group and government forces, have been transferred to Dosseye refugee camp near Goré, the main town in south Chad.

After initial rebel attacks on Ngaoundaye, government forces reportedly entered the town and burned 540 houses, forcing most of the estimated 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants to flee their homes. Houses in the nearby village of Makele have also reportedly been burned. The area remains insecure and inaccessible to UN staff. It is difficult to get precise information but initial reports from humanitarian workers on the ground indicate that up to 20,000 people might be displaced in the area. Ngaoundaye is only a few kilometres away from the border with Chad and Cameroon.

In southern Chad, most of the new arrivals who escaped the attacks are Peul women and children, who initially fled into the bush before walking to Bitoye, a Chadian village at the border, some 220 km from Goré. They were transferred to Dosseye camp, which was opened last December and already hosts some 5,000 refugees from CAR. Among the new arrivals, there were also some men who had bullet wounds who are being treated at the hospital in Goré. Our team is monitoring the border areas for new arrivals. Chadian authorities say people are still crossing the border.

In CAR, we are planning to provide 500 bundles of plastic sheeting for the thousands of displaced who lost their homes. Assistance will be distributed through humanitarian NGOs already working on the ground. People in the area of Ngaoundaye, Man and Bang in north-western CAR had already suffered from violence during fighting between government forces and militant groups in April and May. Thousands of people fled their villages, with some 800 seeking refuge in south Chad. Since January 2007, some 1,700 refugees from CAR have crossed into south Chad.

UN agencies and other humanitarian groups in CAR estimate some 212,000 civilians in the north have been forcibly displaced in the last 18 months. Some 78,000 refugees from CAR have also sought sanctuary in neighbouring Cameroon, Sudan and Chad.

Meanwhile, in CAR, a registration mission of the Central African National Refugee Commission which went last week to the north-eastern town of Sam Ouandja with UNHCR, following the arrival of hundreds of refugees fleeing attacks in south Darfur, recorded 2,598 refugees. The refugees walked more than 200 km from their home town of Dafak in southern Darfur after it was attacked in mid-May. Sam Ouandja is 80 km from the Sudanese border.

UNHCR, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, are finalizing plans to send urgent food assistance, plastic sheeting for shelter and jerry cans to Sam Ouandja. A convoy is expected to leave Bangui on Sunday June 10, but because of bad road conditions and the start of the rainy season, it may take up to 10 days to reach the refugees with supplies. UNHCR, UN agencies and NGOs are going on another mission to assess urgent needs of the refugees flying from Bangui to Sam Ouandja Wednesday and are set to return on Saturday. They will take urgently needed medical kits.