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Chad: High Commissioner returns today from mission

Briefing notes

Chad: High Commissioner returns today from mission

5 March 2004

High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers returns today from his three-day mission to eastern Chad, where he spoke with refugees, visited camps set up to shelter them at a safer distance from the border, and met with humanitarian workers and Chadian officials.

At the end of his visit on Thursday, Lubbers said that he sees little chance of the refugees returning home anytime soon. He added that the refugees have been traumatized by what they experienced in Darfur and that it is too early for them to want to go back at this stage. He said that UNHCR would continue to work with the Chadian authorities and the local population in Chad to assist the refugees until it is safe for them to return home.

The High Commissioner met with Chadian President Idriss Deby on Tuesday in Abéché. The President urged the High Commissioner to continue the registration of the refugees at the border, together with the Chadian agency CNAR.

The High Commissioner visited two refugee camps during the mission. On Tuesday, he met with refugee representatives and NGOs in Farchana camp. On Wednesday, he travelled to the transit centre at Touloum further to the north. He described the stories the refugees told him of attacks on their villages in Darfur and their journey to reach a safer place in Chad as horrible. The refugees also told him about family members killed in the attacks and others who are still missing. Refugees stressed that they do not feel safe going back to Darfur at this point.

The High Commissioner flew back to N'Djamena Wednesday evening, where he met with the UN Special Envoy to Sudan, Tom Eric Vraalsen.

The High Commissioner is scheduled to brief donors on UNHCR's updated requirements of $20,782,000 for the Chad operation this afternoon. We'll try to get you something on that later today.

UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador Julien Clerc, was also visiting eastern Chad at the same time as the High Commissioner. Mr Clerc, a famous French singer and song-writer, was on his very first field mission for UNHCR, after being named Goodwill Ambassador in October, 2003. He arrived in Abéché on Tuesday where he briefly met with High Commissioner Lubbers at the airport, before flying to the Adré region. He went to Mahamata site, just a few hundred metres from the border with Sudan, where refugees had gathered after crossing the border. Mr. Clerc also visited Touloum transit centre where he met refugees and saw food and water distribution. He travelled as well to the transit centre in Kounoungo where 291 refugees had just arrived earlier that day.

Meanwhile, we are making progress in our efforts to move refugees from the volatile border area to camps further inside Chad. So far, 7,978 refugees have been transferred to Farchana, Touloum, and Kounoungo.

Today, we are completing our emergency airlift of tents, blankets, jerry cans and other relief items for the 110,000 Sudanese refugees along the border in eastern Chad. With the arrival of the last flight today, in all, the airlift will have brought in 511 tons of supplies on 13 flights from Denmark, Tanzania and Pakistan. The fifth and final flight from Pakistan is scheduled to arrive today, while the seventh and last flight from Tanzania arrived yesterday.