Hundreds more refugees flee fighting in Central African Republic
GENEVA, October 4 (UNHCR) - Hundreds more refugees fleeing fighting in a town in northern Central African Republic have arrived in Chad, taking the total number of new arrivals since June to nearly 11,000, the UN refugee agency said on Tuesday.
A UNHCR team, accompanied by officials from the Chadian government's refugee agency, the Commission Nationale d'Accueil et de Réinsertion des Réfugiés (CNAR), visited a village on the Chadian border at the weekend and discovered that several hundred refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) have crossed the border over the past week.
UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said the team believed 150 to 200 persons were present in Komba village during their visit.
"The local authorities, however, are reporting that a total of 467 people crossed the border last week following an attack on Markounda in northern CAR on 27 September," Redmond added. "Other inhabitants from Markounda apparently fled elsewhere in northern CAR."
Markounda is only 1.5 km from the Nana-Markounda River, which forms the border between the two countries in that area. Refugees interviewed by UNHCR in Komba said that they crossed the river by canoe after the fighting broke out.
The refugees have so far been receiving food and shelter from the local population. A second UNHCR/CNAR mission is scheduled to go to Komba on Wednesday to see if there have been any more new arrivals, and to make a further assessment of the situation.
"The team will also conduct new interviews with refugees to see whether they wish to remain in the volatile border area, or would like to be moved to Amboko camp," Redmond said, adding that some of the newly arrived refugees told UNHCR staff at the weekend that they expect to return to CAR soon in order to harvest their fields.
The fighting in Markounda involved unidentified armed men and CAR military forces. Markounda used to have a population of some 15,000 inhabitants, but continual unrest over the past three years has forced the majority of the inhabitants to leave the city. Most have gone to south Chad, where many of them have been hosted in Amboko camp, 6 km from the town of Goré, which was opened in June 2003 and now hosts some 24,000 CAR refugees. At the time of the recent attack, around 1,000 people were reportedly still living in Markounda.
UNHCR said it was also continuing the relocation of another group of over 2,000 CAR refugees who were stranded by floods in the Bekan area in south Chad in late August. So far, the UN refugee agency and its local partners have moved 1,150 refugees from this group to Amboko camp, and a further 500 people should be transferred to the camp during the course of this week. The agency expects to complete the relocation movement by mid-October. The Bekan refugees will later be moved to a new site at Gondje, located only a few kilometres from Amboko.
In a third operation taking place in this part of southern Chad, UNHCR is continuing the repatriation movements of some 1,500 refugees of Chadian nationality from CAR. This group of Chadians had been living in CAR for two decades and were well integrated with the local population, developing their own sustainable activities such as cotton cultivation. But the continued insecurity in northern CAR, which has intensified since last December, led them to ask UNHCR to help them repatriate to their country of origin.
The third convoy of 417 returnees from CAR arrived in the transit centre in Amboko camp on Saturday. After resting in Amboko for a few days, the returnees are then taken back to their home villages. This latest convoy brings the total number of Chadians repatriated from CAR since mid-September to 976. The final convoy is scheduled to leave Boubou camp in CAR on Wednesday and reach Amboko on Friday.
Although most of the Chadians have now gone home, there are still some 14,000 refugees of various nationalities in camps and urban areas in the Central African Republic. Across the border, an estimated 40-45,000 refugees from the Central African Republic are now living in southern Chad including the 10,700 new arrivals since June.