More Sudanese flee into Chad; UNHCR starts work on relocation site
ADRE, Chad, Dec 8 (UNHCR) - Nearly 10,000 more Sudanese refugees have fled to eastern Chad to escape an escalation of conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan, bringing total numbers to more than 75,000. Meanwhile, safety concerns have led the UN refugee agency to start developing a site further inland in Chad to relocate the refugees who have been living in sites along the volatile border.
The latest influx reported by local authorities in eastern Chad, itself an impoverished area, comes amid reports of aerial bombardments of homes and villages in Darfur, ethnic cleansing by Arab militias and a blockage of access to relief agencies trying to bring aid to the strife-torn western Sudan region.
The new refugees join an earlier group of 65,000 who had escaped to eastern Chad between April and August this year when fighting heightened in Darfur. This brings to more than 75,000 the number of Sudanese refugees who have fled the spiralling conflict so far this year. Aid organisations estimate that more than 4 million others have been uprooted from their homes by months of conflict between forces loyal to the government of Sudan and the rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM).
According to local authorities in eastern Chad, the refugees in this latest wave fled to Chad over the last several weeks.
Last week, a UNHCR emergency team that visited areas such as Birak, Ade and Nakoulouta confirmed a visible presence of new arrivals in some of the sites close to the volatile border. The largest number of refugees (6,000) is in Tisi while another 3,000 are in Ade and Nakoulouta, south of the border town of Adré. Some 1,000 new refugees are also in Birak, north-east of Abéché, the main town in eastern Chad. Because of security concerns, UNHCR staff have been unable to travel to Tisi, some 300 km south of Adré, to verify reports of new refugees there.
Meanwhile, the security situation along Chad's eastern border with Sudan has continued to deteriorate. Many of the refugees fleeing the conflict in Darfur have settled in several sites along this dangerous border.
Increasing numbers of cross-border incursions and theft of livestock by Sudanese Arab militia on horseback have been reported. Over a three-day period (November 28 - December 1), for example, more than 600 head of livestock were stolen from refugees and Chadian communities living close to the border. In addition, a raid on livestock at a site north of Adré on December 1 led to the death of two Sudanese and one Chadian. Another Sudanese was taken hostage.
Because of concerns for the safety of refugees living close to the border, UNHCR has begun to develop a site in Farchana, 55 km from Adré, for the transfer of some 30,000 refugees. The site will need water wells and a basic road network before the first group of refugees can be transferred. The refugee agency is also set to begin similar work on a second site at Sarang, north-east of Abéché, which can take in another 30,000 refugees when ready.