Hundreds of refugees fleeing fighting in northern Central African Republic (CAR) between unidentified armed men and the military have arrived in Chad, taking the number of new arrivals since June to nearly 11,000, the United Nations refugee agency said today.
A team from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), accompanied by officials from the Chadian Government, visited the Komba village over the weekend and found some 150 to 200 refugees there, according to agency spokesman Ron Redmond.
"The local authorities, however, are reporting that a total of 467 people crossed the border last week, following an attack on Markounda (town) in northern CAR on 27 September," he told a press briefing in Geneva. "Other inhabitants from Markounda apparently fled elsewhere in northern CAR."
Markounda is 1.5 kilometres from the Nana-Markounda River, which forms part of the border between the two countries. Refugees interviewed by UNHCR in Komba said that they crossed the river by canoe after the fighting broke out, Mr. Redmond said.
The town used to have a population of some 15,000, but because of continued unrest over the past three years only around 1,000 people were reportedly still living there, he said. Most of those who fled went to southern Chad, where most have been living in Amboko camp. The camp, which opened in June 2003, now hosts some 24,000 CAR refugees, he said.
Mr. Redmond said the team would interview refugees to see whether they wished to remain in the volatile border area, or would like to be moved to Amboko camp. Some of the newly arrived refugees told UNHCR staff at the weekend that they expected to return to CAR soon to harvest their fields, he added.
UNHCR and its local partners also have moved to Amboko camp some 1,150 CAR refugees out of a group of 2,000 who were stranded by floods in the Bekan area of southern Chad in late August. The others should be relocated by mid-October. The Bekan refugees will later be moved to a new site at Gondje, not far from Amboko.
In a third operation taking place in this part of southern Chad, Mr. Redmond said, UNHCR is continuing the repatriation of some 1,500 Chadian refugees. Although they had been living in CAR for two decades and were well integrated with the local population, insecurity in the country prompted them to repatriate.