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Chad / Darfur / Central African Republic

Briefing notes

Chad / Darfur / Central African Republic

1 February 2008

More than 40 UNHCR staff and aid workers from partner non-governmental organisations have been relocated from the eastern Chad town of Guéréda following a series of armed attacks in the area amid growing concern over the security situation in the country.

The aid workers are being temporarily relocated by air and road to the town of Abéché, the main centre for humanitarian operations in eastern Chad, where UNHCR manages 12 sprawling refugee camps for some 240,000 refugees from the neighbouring Darfur region of Sudan.

Over the past three days, five vehicles belonging to UNHCR, its non-governmental partners and MSF Suisse were stolen at gun-point in Guéréda. The UNHCR compound in Guéréda was entered by armed men two nights in a row - on Wednesday and Thursday.

More aid workers were being relocated from Guéréda today, but a number of essential staff will remain to ensure basic support in the two Guéréda camps - Mile and Kounoungou - which together host 30,000 refugees from Darfur. Some of the remaining staff in Guéréda went to the two refugee camps yesterday to distribute food and water and provide health care. They reported that the refugees are very worried about the deteriorating security situation.

Tensions between opposition forces and the Chadian National Army have been mounting since Monday, leading to increased security incidents, especially in Guéréda, which lies about 165 kilometres north-east of Abéché. There are also reports of opposition groups moving toward the capital, N'Djamena, where our staff have been advised to stay at home.

Further complicating the situation is the arrival of some 2,000 Sudanese refugees from Um Dukhum, south-west Darfur, who arrived a few days ago in the Chadian border village of Tissi, about 500 km south-east of Abéché. The area, near the borders of Chad, Central African Republic and Darfur, is not accessible at this time because of military activity in the region. We are trying to get more information on this group of new refugees, who are being hosted by the local population in Tissi. UNHCR will try with local authorities to get them transferred to Goz Amer refugee camp in Koukou, south-east of Abéché.

In a separate development, an estimated 5,800 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have arrived in several border villages in southern Chad over the past few weeks. Many of them have crossed the border since Monday, fleeing attacks by bandits in northern CAR. Others crossed as early as December. Most of them fled to the Maya village border point and its surroundings, south of the region's biggest town, Goré. A UNHCR team dispatched to the area has pre-registered 3,740 refugees. The team estimates that at least another 2,100 refugees are present in the area.

The CAR refugees arrived with nothing and are in poor condition, according to UNHCR staff, who are working with local authorities to get them transferred to camps.

With the new arrivals, there are now some 50,000 refugees from CAR in south Chad. They are being hosted in Amboko, Gondjé and Dosseye camps.