After reporting earlier in the week that refugees were fleeing violence in Chad into the equally troubled Darfur region of Sudan, the United Nations affirmed today that some 100 to 125 Sudanese also continue to arrive at a camp in eastern Chad each day.
“So now we’ve got refugees going in both directions in this increasingly volatile region,” Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said at a press briefing in Geneva.
Meanwhile in New York, Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed the ongoing violence in Darfur with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). He underscored the urgent need to protect civilians there and across the border in Chad.
“The Secretary-General expressed his concern about continuing insecurity and the increasing number of direct threats to relief workers,” a read-out of the meeting released by a spokesman for Mr. Annan said, noting that the tense environment has led to decreased access to the vulnerable people in need.
Participants focused on the importance of strengthening peacekeeping operations in light of a possible transition from the African Union (AU) military presence in Darfur to a new force, according to the read-out. The meeting also touched on ways to reinforce political dialogue among all parties on the ground in order to find a peaceful settlement.
“The Secretary-General thanked the NGOs for their courageous work in assisting those affected by the conflict and, as strategic allies, in working together to protect civilians and provide vitally needed humanitarian assistance,” the read-out said.
A total of 3,600 new arrivals have been recorded at the Gaga camp in eastern Chad, saying they left Darfur or the troubled border area out of fear over attacks by the Janjaweed militia or by other armed groups based on both sides of the frontier.
They come on donkeys, on foot and in trucks from the border, with some refugees herding livestock that survived being stolen, Mr. Redmond said.
UNHCR is working with the Government, the World Food Programme (WFP) and other partners to improve and expand the reception of newcomers at Gaga, along with the medical screening process and shelter distribution.
Once registered, refugees get a tent and other items such as blankets, mosquito nets, mats, jerry cans and a cooking kit.
The camp, which has a capacity for 20,000 refugees, now has a population of 10,000. Some 200,000 refugees who have fled Darfur since 2003 live in 12 refugee sites in eastern Chad.