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Rains hamper aid efforts for 2,000 new arrivals in southern Chad


Rains hamper aid efforts for 2,000 new arrivals in southern Chad

Chadian authorities have reported the arrival of 2,000 new Central African refugees in the last two weeks. UNHCR and local officials have been unable to reach them due to heavy rains and flooded riverbeds, but are seeking a new site to house the new arrivals.
7 September 2005 Also available in:
Bridges broken by heavy rains are preventing UNHCR staff from reaching new Central African refugees in Bekam village, southern Chad.

BEKAM, Chad, September 7 (UNHCR) - Heavy rains and damaged roads are hampering the UN refugee agency's attempts to reach some 2,000 Central Africans who are reported to have arrived in southern Chad in the last two weeks.

After Chadian authorities reported the arrival of the new refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), a joint mission composed of UNHCR, local authorities and representatives from the Chadian government refugee body CNAR (Commission Nationale d'Accueil et de Réinsertion des Réfugiés) tried to access the refugees in the village of Bekam earlier this week. The team was unable to cross the wadi (riverbed) as the bridge was completely broken. New attempts are planned as soon as the water level goes down.

These refugees are the latest to flee ongoing insecurity in northern CAR. Thousands more have fled fighting between government troops and armed groups since June this year.

"Over the past three months, we have been coping with big influxes with minimum resources in southern Chad," said Ana Liria-Franch, UNHCR's Representative in Chad. "While the Chadian government has authorised us to identify a new site where refugees can be hosted, access to the refugees in the villages is one of the problems we are facing now due to heavy rains damaging the roads and bridges."

The Chadian government has given UNHCR the green light to find a new site to relocate the new refugees at the border and in anticipation of new influxes. Amboko camp, the main refugee site in southern Chad, will soon reach its maximum capacity of 27,000. At the same time, UNHCR and its partners are continuing the transfer of 4,000 Central African refugees who crossed over to Chad at the beginning of August, fleeing banditry and attacks by armed groups on their villages.

Maskende, 60, is one of the recent arrivals. He described the insecurity in his village in early August: "On August 9, we were working in our fields when we heard gunshots. We left the fields to find out what had happened, and the women and children we met in the village advised us not to stay. We hid in the bush for two days and finally, as there was no improvement of the situation, we decided to cross over to Chad."

Nine-year-old Angelique is still at the border with her father, waiting for relocation to Amboko within the coming days. "I don't know where my mother and my brothers are," she said. "We fled because people came and began to shoot. We didn't have time to identify the assailants. We fled because we feared for our lives."

UNHCR recently received over 500 additional tents from its stockpiles in eastern Chad in order to complete the relocation of Central African refugees as soon as possible.

In a separate development, the UN refugee agency is also preparing to repatriate 1,542 Chadians who had fled to CAR in the early 1980s. In 2001, UNHCR conducted a return operation for the Chadian refugees, but this group had opted to remain in CAR. Now, the continuing insecurity in the region is prompting them to request help in returning to Chad. UNHCR plans to run the first return convoy on September 19.

By Djerassem Mbaïorem and Bernard Ntwari