Fleeing Chadians should be classed as refugees, says joint UN-Sudanese report

Fleeing Chadians should be classed as refugees, says joint UN-Sudanese report

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A joint report by the United Nations refugee agency and its Sudanese Government counterpart has recommended that the estimated 30,000 Chadians who have fled to neighbouring Darfur to escape a worsening security situation in their homeland be classified as refugees.

But the report also warned that anyone in that group who is an active or former combatant in the clashes in Chad should not be granted refugee status, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said today.

Ms. Pagonis told reporters at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva that the recommendations follow an in-depth field assessment carried out in West Darfur state this year by staff from UNHCR and Sudan’s Commissioner for Refugees (COR).

Most of the Chadians interviewed by the UNHCR-COR teams said they fled their country after armed men in military uniforms entered their homes, searching for weapons and accusing locals of participating or backing militia activities. Many of the searches turned violent, culminating in lootings, beatings, arrests and even murders.

“In addition to the brutal searches, many families said they left Chad because of the general insecurity and fighting between governmental forces and opposition groups,” Ms. Pagonis said, noting that most people interviewed indicated they feared returning to Chad.

The new arrivals in Darfur, which has been beset by its own violence and humanitarian suffering since 2003, are mainly from Arab nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes, although some are from non-Arab tribes.

Ms. Pagonis said most of the group entered West Darfur near Foro Baranga, about 200 kilometres south of El Geneina, the state capital, and then settled along the Wadi Azoum river bed. The majority of arrivals came from the Tiero, Marena, Mayo and Awinrado areas in south-eastern Chad.

Most of the Chadians who have crossed the border do not seem to need urgent food or material assistance, having brought livestock and bags of sorghum with them, according to the report. But it recommended that the most vulnerable people among the new arrivals be provided with a food ration, and called on the Sudanese health ministry to launch a vaccination campaign for children as soon as possible.