UNHCR condemns forced recruitment of Sudanese refugees in Chad camps
GENEVA, Mar 31 (UNHCR) - UNHCR has strongly condemned the forced recruitment of refugees from the Darfur area of Sudan by armed groups in two different camps in eastern Chad.
Several hundred people, mainly men and boys, were recruited over the course of the weekend of 17-19 March, a time when fewer humanitarian staff are present in camps, according to an investigation by UNHCR and testimonials from refugees.
"At this stage it is not entirely clear who is responsible for this recruitment," Ron Redmond, UNHCR spokesman told journalists at a regular briefing in Geneva. "But we can say that some of the refugees who were recruited have since returned to the camps."
The UNHCR investigation found that those taken were mostly men and boys aged between 15-36 years old, although some were even younger. The majority were recruited by force although some joined voluntarily.
"UNHCR strongly condemns this forced recruitment of Sudanese refugees. It breaches the civilian character of asylum and of our camps. We call for all parties involved to put an end to these activities," said Redmond.
The two camps, Treguine and Breidjing are located between Abéché, eastern Chad's capital and the border town of Adré.
"This is not the first time we've had such reports," said Redmond. "In early March, we also had reports of forced recruitments in Kounoungou camp, near the town of Guéréda. "
Redmond said that this incident of forced recruitment was a further sign of the growing insecurity which is spreading along the Chad-Sudan border. "The High Commissioner António Guterres has been warning about this for months. There are also reports of clashes yesterday in an area between the eastern Chad towns of Ade and Modeina, about 100 km south of Adré."
Redmond said that even though there have been no similar reports since the incident two weeks ago, some young refugees, now fearful of being recruited, were thought to have left the camps and gone into hiding.
UNHCR has had several high-level meetings with the Chadian authorities over this issue where it has stressed the need to respect the civilian character of the camps. "We reminded the government of Chad that it has the primary responsibility for ensuring the security of refugee camps on its territory," said Redmond.
Earlier this month UNHCR and the Chadian government signed an agreement to increase the security presence in and around all 12 camps in eastern Chad which involved widening the security perimeter around the camps, as well as increasing the number of gendarmes.
More than 200,000 refugees from Sudan's Darfur region are in 12 UNHCR-run camps along the border in eastern Chad.