March 20th, 2007 06:06 EST
UN agency moves Chadian refugees deeper into Sudan because of insecurity
The United Nations refugee agency is helping to move hundreds of Chadians from a volatile border area to a camp deeper in Sudan at the refugees’ own request because of ongoing insecurity.
On Saturday a first convoy of 14 trucks carrying 221 Chadian refugees and their donkeys departed from the border village of Arara, arriving the following day at Um Shalaya camp, 75 kilometres from the border and 60 kilometres from El Geneina, capital of Sudan’s West Darfur province. A second convoy was set to depart today.
An estimated 20,000 Chadian refugees have crossed the border to Darfur since the end of 2005, fleeing the increased presence of various armed groups and growing insecurity, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva today.
Some 16,000 decided to remain close to the border to have better access to their lands and to be able to return quickly to Chad once the security situation allows. But after the deterioration of the security situation, hundreds in recent weeks have decided to join 3,800 Chadian refugees already living in Um Shalaya, which UNHCR opened in May 2006.
UNHCR worked with the inter-governmental International Organization for Migration (IOM) to register the refugees and organize the logistical and transport arrangements for Saturday’s convoy, which was escorted the first day by Sudanese police and by African Union (AU) troops on Sunday. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) provided food.
UNHCR and its partners have drilled more boreholes in Um Shalaya to ensure access to safe water. “We are also building a school in the local village near Um Shalaya. The school will benefit both the local Sudanese and Chadian refugee children,” Mr. Redmond said.
Since the conflict in Sudan between the Government, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy spread from Darfur into neighbouring Chad in late 2005, about 120,000 Chadians have been internally displaced, mainly in the south-eastern part of the country.
At least 2 million people have been displaced in the whole of Darfur and 230,000 Sudanese refugees remain in 12 UNHCR camps in eastern Chad and along border areas as a result of the conflict which started in Darfur in early 2003 and has already killed more than 200,000 people.