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New influx of Sudanese reported in eastern Chad

New influx of Sudanese reported in eastern Chad

The UN refugee agency has sent teams to investigate reports that some 18,000 Sudanese refugees have arrived in various border towns in eastern Chad in the last five days.
21 January 2004
Sudanese refugees in Birak, eastern Chad, which has seen a new influx in recent days.

ADRE, Chad, Jan 21 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency today dispatched teams to the border region of Chad to look into reports of some 18,000 new Sudanese refugees fleeing continued violence in western Sudan's Darfur region over the past five days.

Local authorities in the border area north of the town of Adré in eastern Chad told a UNHCR team there Tuesday that some 8,000 refugees had arrived in three different sites. The new arrivals had reportedly fled from fighting in Sudan's Djerbira canton since January 16.

Some 4,000 new refugees have been reported in Birak, where authorities have allocated an open field for them. UNHCR staff are on the ground today to gather more detailed information on the new arrivals.

Another 1,315 new refugees have been reported in Djoran, 15 km from Birak towards the border. They had walked or travelled on donkeys from the villages of Habsourd and Berseliba through the mountains of Hadja Mothahim.

In the Chadian villages of Sandi and Sougon, UNHCR teams and local authorities have reported an additional 2,500 refugees who are scattered over a range of 20-30 km. According to MSF-Belgique, 12 wounded people have been evacuated to Tine, further north, following the January 16 attack. Local authorities report four people dead and 18 missing, including five children from the same family. Latest reports say that Tine has been regularly bombed by Sudanese forces for the past 72 hours.

UNHCR has sent another team to the southern part of the border area near Ade, Tisi and Goz-Bedah, where authorities say up to 10,000 refugees have arrived in the last three days.

The UNHCR teams are expected to bring back crucial information from the ground that will allow the agency to quickly prepare a plan of action to assist the refugees.

The UN refugee agency is in the process of moving available aid supplies, such as blankets and jerry cans, to the nearby Chadian town of Guéréda. Some of these supplies can be used to help the new arrivals. UNHCR is working with the World Food Programme to bring in food - sorghum, beans and corn soya - for 25,000 people for 15 days.

The refugee agency is also asking the Chadian governmental authority CNAR (Commission Nationale d'Accueil et de Réinsertion des Réfugiés) to dispatch staff immediately to register the new arrivals.

Tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees who have been fleeing Darfur since last year are now dispersed along some 600 km of borderland. The remoteness of the area and security and logistical difficulties have made an accurate headcount impossible. However, local authorities estimated last month that some 95,000 Sudanese refugees had so far fled into Chad - 30,000 in December alone.

UNHCR, partner agencies and the Chadian authorities have been working to move the refugees away from the insecure border. Almost 400 people have been transferred so far to an inland site at Farchana, which can host up to 9,000 people. The ongoing relocation operation is moving an average of 250 refugees every other day.

At the same time, a second relocation site has been found at Kouloungo. UNHCR's German NGO partner, GTZ, will start working on the site next week. The camp could host up to 8,000 people upon completion.

Two other sites are being assessed for relocation: Saranh, east of Iriba, which could host between 15,000 to 20,000 people; and Hodj, west of Guéréda, which could host up to 15,000 refugees.