Security boost for Chad's camps amid rising violence against refugees

Three Sudanese refugees in eastern Chad have been killed in recent days. UNHCR and the Chadian government have sent 180 gendarmes to patrol areas in and around UNHCR's camps there. The refugee agency is also working to increase assistance to the local community to ease tensions.

Chadian gendarmes who will guard UNHCR's camps in eastern Chad, at a ceremony in Abeche. There are 20 women among the 180 officers assigned to the task.   © UNHCR/E.Cue

ABECHE, Chad, Oct 1 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency's camps in eastern Chad have received a security boost amid a recent spate of attacks on Sudanese refugees. Gendarmes have been sent to patrol areas in and around the camps, while UNHCR has announced more assistance to ease tensions in the local community.

Last Friday, a man riding a camel shot a refugee who was tending his animals some 20 km from Mile camp in eastern Chad. The refugee was wounded in the leg and later died in hospital. On Monday, two refugees were killed between the towns of Iriba and Mile for unknown reasons.

On Tuesday near Mile camp, eight armed men on horseback stole some 100 sheep after threatening a refugee who was guarding them. That same day, another refugee guarding his animals about 20 km from Mile was shot in the arm and his horse was stolen. He walked all night back to the camp after losing a great deal of blood.

Last week, five girls and two boys who had walked 30 km from Kounoungo camp to gather wood were attacked by five men, who beat them and raped one of the girls. They returned to the camp two days later after being released.

"Refugees and Chadian authorities blame Chadian nomads for the recent violence, saying the local people who live in villages near the camps are not responsible. Nevertheless, the incidents are indicative of increasing tension between the refugees and the local population due to a lack of resources," said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond at a news briefing in Geneva on Friday.

He explained, "While the Sudanese refugees were openly welcomed by Chadians belonging to the same ethnic groups when they crossed the border, there is some resentment among local people who now say the refugees in the camps live better than they do."

Sudanese refugees receive food, water, shelter and other assistance in 10 UNHCR camps in the remote desert of eastern Chad.

To improve security, 180 Chadian gendarmes - 20 of them women - have begun patrols in and around UNHCR's camps. On Thursday, UNHCR handed over nine vehicles to the Chadian National Committee for Assistance to Refugees (CNAR) for use by the gendarmes.

"UNHCR is also working to ease tensions between the local population and the refugees," said Redmond. "During his just-completed visit to Chad with major donors, High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said more must be done to help the Chadians. He called on donors to increase contributions to help local communities around the 10 UNHCR camps in eastern Chad. Lubbers also announced a number of UNHCR-financed projects aimed at helping local people living near the refugee camps."