CAR + 1 more

CAR-Chad: Chadian officials grant UNHCR site for refugees

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BANGUI, 25 February (IRIN) - Officials in the southern Chadian town of Gore have granted the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) a site on which to accommodate 10,000 people fleeing fighting in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR), according to Emile Segbor, the UNHCR's representative in the CAR.
He told IRIN that the UNHCR would move fast to establish the facility, probably early in March.

"We will not wait for the end of the camp planning [session] before taking the refugees there. We are now setting up big tents near the site of the camp that can shelter 40 to 50 people," Segbor said on Sunday.

The asylum seekers, mostly women and children, walked to the border - some for 200 km - and are using the Kaba-Roangar (south of Gore) and Sido (south of Sarh) border entry points to Chad. They comprise both CAR nationals and Chadians, many of whom have lived in CAR for decades.

By 18 February, Segbor said, UNHCR had registered about 10,000 refugees in Gore, which is 30 km north of the CAR border. "Between 18 February and now [23 February] we estimate that [another] 5,000 people have entered Chad."

On average, he said, 1,000 CAR refugees and Chadian asylum seekers were crossing into Chad daily, up from 500 a day a week ago. The increasing influx brings to 21,000 the estimated number of people fleeing to Chadian border towns and villages.

"The CAR refugees say they are fleeing from the excesses of Bozize's rebels, while the Chadians say they are fleeing from the excesses of government forces and Jean-Pierre Bemba's [Mouvement de liberation du Congo, MLC] fighters," he said.

Government troops, backed by MLC forces from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, are engaged in a counteroffensive against supporters of the CAR former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize. He is living in exile in France, but his fighters have persevered in their bid to overthrow CAR President Ange-Felix Patasse.

UNHCR has reported that Medecins Sans Frontieres-Belgium has opened a transit centre in Gore to shelter some of the new arrivals, and has been providing the wounded with emergency medical aid. It quoted MSF as saying that some of the recent arrivals had bullet wounds. "They have serious food and health problems," Segbor said.

The returning Chadians are made up of two groups: those who want to return to their regions of origin in Chad (mostly from the Salamat region) and those who have lived in the CAR for decades and have "no link" with their country.

"These people constitute a big problem," Segbor said.

[ENDS]

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