Number of Central African refugees soars as violence intensifies

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

"We fled fearing that rebel groups would come and take over our town. We left everything behind and took a dugout canoe to cross the Ubangi river. We do not have food or a bed, but my daughter is constructing a shelter not far from here."

Yvette, 57, sits with two of her children in Ndu village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after fleeing Bangassou in the Central African Republic. It is the second time she has fled her country as a refugee – after escaping violence in 2017.

Central African refugee Yvette, 57, sits with two of her grandchildren in Ndu village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after fleeing Bangassou in the Central African Republic.  © UNHCR/Ghislaine Nentobo

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for the immediate end to all violence in the Central African Republic (CAR) as nearly 60,000 people have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries since December, a two-fold rise in just one week.

Most have fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), across the Ubangui River, where the number of arrivals topped 50,000 after 10,000 Central African refugees arrived in a single day on 13 January.

Some 58,000 people are still displaced inside CAR's affected regions, according to the Population Movement Commissions, and nearly 9,000 refugees have arrived in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, and the Republic of Congo this past month.

UNHCR commends neighbouring governments for continuing to grant Central African refugees access to territory and asylum despite border restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNHCR and partners in CAR are gathering reports of abuses by armed groups, including of sexual violence, attacks on voters and pillaging.

UNHCR is calling for an immediate return of all parties to meaningful dialogue and progress towards peace.

The events of the last month – since reports of election-related violence began – reverse the trend of recent years of Central African refugees returning home.

UNHCR and its partners are scaling up assistance for the new arrivals, despite poor infrastructure hampering the humanitarian response.

UNHCR was already seeking $151.5 million this year to respond to the CAR situation. The needs of the recently displaced Central Africans are mounting, and we will soon face a substantial funding shortfall.

We call on the international community to urgently expand support to the CAR humanitarian response to allow more aid to reach those in remote areas.


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