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Chad receives new refugee influx from Central African Republic

Briefing notes

Chad receives new refugee influx from Central African Republic

17 February 2006

A fresh influx of more than 2,500 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) crossed over into southern Chad this week, fleeing violent attacks by bandits, armed rebels and security forces in the lawless, northern part of CAR.

The refugees claim that recent attacks in their villages forced them to flee, leaving everything behind. Some refugees told UNHCR they had been attacked by bandits ("coupeurs de route"), while others say they were victims of violent attacks by armed rebels and/or the army. Refugees also reported that civilians have been killed in the attacks. Chadian authorities say that since Sunday, at least 50 civilians have been killed. Six people injured during the attacks in CAR have been brought to hospitals in Goré and Bongor towns in southern Chad for treatment.

There has been a significant increase in CAR refugees crossing into Chad this year, with some 4,300 crossing since January, and 3,785 seeking refuge in February alone. Refugees are crossing the border at a steady rate of around 100 a day. They are coming from northern CAR villages including from Bepikasse, Bemai, Bossangoa, Bedoro, Beogobo, and Bekia. They are initially finding refuge in Bekoninga, a Chadian village of 600 inhabitants located only 500 metres from the CAR border.

However, living conditions are extremely tough. Hundreds of refugees are now living and sleeping under mango trees in Bekoninga, and have so far survived on the food they were able to bring with them or the generosity of the local population. The water situation is of deep concern as Bekoninga only has one well, which is not enough for the local population and the refugees. Some refugees have no option but to drink water from a nearby swamp.

UNHCR has a team at Bekoninga and on Sunday started registering the new arrivals. We plan to transfer them after two weeks to Gondjé refugee camp, 12 km north of Goré, the main town in south Chad. Gondjé refugee camp opened in December 2005 to accommodate 15,000 CAR refugees who had fled fighting during the summer of 2005. The new refugee influx is creating an enormous strain on the already limited financial resources available for our operation in southern Chad.

Some 45,000 CAR refugees live in three camps in southern Chad - Yaroungou, Amboko and Gondjé.