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Chad: Hundreds fleeing continuing insecurity in Sudan's West Darfur region

Briefing notes

Chad: Hundreds fleeing continuing insecurity in Sudan's West Darfur region

24 January 2006

Nearly 800 Sudanese refugees have arrived in eastern Chad since January 1, fleeing continuing insecurity in the neighbouring West Darfur region of Sudan.

UNHCR teams on the ground report that the new arrivals are now receiving help in Gaga camp, east of Abéché, the main town in eastern Chad. Some of the refugees come from several villages straddling the Chad - Sudan border, while others have fled camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in West Darfur. These IDP camps include Mornei, Masteri and Ardamata. Small groups of 10 to 20 refugees continue to arrive in Gaga camp daily, and say more people are ready to leave Darfur in the coming days because of the insecurity.

The newly arrived Sudanese refugees all cite the current deterioration of security in Darfur - including attacks by the janjaweed and a recent rise of tensions between Chad and Sudan - as the main reasons for fleeing. Security has worsened in West Darfur in recent months, resulting in a reduction in the number of aid workers operating in the area.

Upon arrival at Gaga camp, the new refugees are being registered by UNHCR and our Chadian government partner, CNAR (Commission nationale d'accueil et de réinsertion des réfugiés). The refugees, many of whom arrive with very few belonging, receive tents, food, blankets, cooking kits, mats and other items. Refugees also undergo a medical screening, especially the children.

Many of the new arrivals say they travelled at night, riding donkeys. Others travelled by truck from El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, to villages near Gaga camp at a cost of US$30 to $40 per person. Others walked for days to reach the camp.

Gaga is the newest of 12 UNHCR camps in eastern Chad and currently has about 6,600 refugees. In all, there are more than 200,000 refugees from Darfur in camps in eastern Chad.

As we announced over the weekend, we have temporarily reduced our staff presence in two of our five regional offices in eastern Chad (Guéréda and Iriba) as a precautionary measure following an attack by a group of unidentified armed men on the town of Guéréda on Friday (20 Jan.), and the abduction of five government officials. UNHCR expresses its deep concern about the fate of the kidnapped group and calls for their immediate release.

We have maintained enough people in the two field offices to continue delivering essential services in our camps - water, food, health services, protection and sanitation.

We are assessing the security situation on a daily basis. In the meantime, it has been reported quiet in Guéréda and in the two neighbouring refugee camps - Mile and Kounoungo.