UNHCR raises concerns about refugee safety in Chadian border town
GORE, Chad, March 14 (UNHCR) - As terrified groups continue fleeing from the Central African Republic into Chad, the UN refugee agency has asked Chadian authorities to intervene to ensure that soldiers stopped harassing new arrivals in the southern border town of Goré.
Over the last week, more than 4,000 people have arrived in southern Chad, driven by weeks of fighting between the army and rebels in the north-western areas of the Central African Republic (CAR). There are now a total of some 30,000 arrivals since the conflict started in mid-February.
Many of the recent arrivals - Central African refugees and returning Chadians who had earlier migrated to CAR - have settled in the Chadian border town of Goré, where there are reports of harassment by Chadian soldiers.
On Tuesday, the soldiers allegedly sneaked into the Goré transit centre and tried to kidnap some refugee women. Their efforts were thwarted and a complaint was later made to local authorities. This was apparently not the first time they had tried to abduct the refugee women.
On Wednesday, some 50 soldiers went on a looting rampage in Goré. Firing shots in the air, they caused such panic that the streets were quickly emptied and schools closed. They took two vehicles belonging to MSF-Belgium, and stole motorcycles, bicycles and radios from the refugees and returning Chadians.
The vehicles were later returned when local authorities intervened. But refugees trying to reclaim their possessions soon after the raid complained that they were beaten by soldiers at the local customs office. Their belongings were only returned after UNHCR complained to central authorities in the Chadian capital, Ndjamena.
The military have now been ordered to stay out of Goré town.
UNHCR has re-opened its office in Ndjamena, and is establishing a field office in Goré to cope with the ongoing influx from northern CAR.
Meanwhile, in south-western CAR, the border town of Mongoumba has also been hit by MLC (Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo) rebels from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Hundreds of Central Africans - including local authorities - have been fleeing to the Republic of Congo to escape the small border town, which new arrivals say has now fallen into anarchy.