Chadian refugees in Darfur moved away from the volatile Chad-Sudan border
Over the weekend, we moved a group of over 200 Chadian refugees from the volatile Chad-Sudan border area to a UNHCR refugee camp in West Darfur. On Saturday (March 17), together with IOM, a first convoy of 14 trucks carrying 221 Chadian refugees and their donkeys departed from the border village of Arara. It safely arrived on Sunday at Um Shalaya camp near Mornei, 75 km from the border and 60 km from El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. A second convoy is expected to depart today and arrive in Um Shalaya tomorrow (21 March).
The new arrivals at UNHCR's Um Shalaya refugee camp are part of a bigger group of 550 Chadian refugees in Darfur who have approached us to be moved away from the border because of the ongoing insecurity. In total, an estimated 20,000 Chadian refugees have crossed the border to Darfur since the end of 2005, fleeing the increased presence of various armed groups and growing insecurity. An estimated 16,000 decided to remain close to the border to have better access to their lands and to be able to return quickly to Chad once the security situation allows. However, following the deterioration of the security situation, hundreds of Chadian refugees in recent weeks have decided to join 3,800 Chadian refugees already living in Um Shalaya camp, which UNHCR opened in May 2006. The recent arrivals at the camp fled the south-eastern Chadian village of Modoyna and reached the border village of Arara in West Darfur three months ago.
UNHCR worked with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), to register the refugees and organise the logistical and transport arrangements the first movement. Save the Children USA conducted medical screening and escort.
The convoy was escorted the first day by Sudanese police, and by African Union troops on Sunday. Food was provided by WFP.
UNHCR has two camps for Chadian refugees in West Darfur: Um Shalaya and a smaller one in Mukjar, 190 km south west of El Geneina. About 265 Chadian refugees are in Mukjar.
UNHCR and its partners have drilled more boreholes in Um Shalaya to ensure access to safe water. We are also building a school in the local village near Um Shalaya. The school will benefit both the local Sudanese and Chadian refugee children.
Since the conflict in Sudan spread from Darfur into neighbouring Chad in late 2005, about 120,000 Chadians have been internally displaced, mainly in the south-eastern part of the country. In addition, an estimated 20,000 Chadians have sought refuge in West Darfur. At least 2 million people are displaced in the whole of Darfur and 230,000 Sudanese refugees remain in 12 UNHCR camps and along border areas in eastern Chad as a result of the conflict which started in Darfur in early 2003.