Chad: Rebel infiltration of Oure Cassoni camp
We are very disturbed by reports of ongoing infiltration of armed Sudanese rebels inside and near some refugee camps in eastern Chad and fear further recruitment of refugees for military activities. Men identified as belonging to a Sudanese rebel armed movement were spotted earlier this week in the northern Oure Cassoni camp, some 20 kilometres from Bahai. Because of its close proximity to the Sudanese border, only 7 kms, the camp which shelters some 27,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur, has been suspected of being used as a rest and recuperation base for Sudanese rebels. This is the first time however, that rebels have been seen so openly in broad daylight, in vehicles and walking around the camp.
On Tuesday morning, at least three pick-ups, with some three to four men in military clothing in each vehicle, were seen in the camp. The men claimed they were visiting family members, needed medical care and getting cigarettes.
We immediately informed the local authorities about the infiltration. On Wednesday and Thursday we met with our implementing partners, local authorities, camp gendarmes and refugee leaders. The refugees were clearly reminded of their rights, duties and obligation not to engage in political nor military activity in Chad and most specifically not in the camps.
Once again, we strongly condemn the infiltration of refugee camps by any military presence. This situation is totally unacceptable. It violates the civilian and humanitarian character of the refugee camps and risks making refugees and humanitarian workers a target. We want to stress to the Chadian authorities, rebel groups and refugees that military infiltration of the camps cannot continue. If not stopped, it could result in the suspension of humanitarian activities.
The responsibility for security in and around the refugee camps rests with the Chadian government and we are working with them on increasing their resources. We are also continuing our information campaign to dissuade refugees from joining political and military activities, and warn them of the risks associated with militarization of the camp.
Last week, we condemned the infiltration of rebel military groups in other refugee camps in eastern Chad including Treguine, Breidjing and Goz Amir.
There are over 200,000 refugees from Darfur in twelve camps in eastern Chad.