CAR + 1 more

Central African Republic-Chad: More Central African refugees arrive in Chad as families flee village raids

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DAKAR, 28 July (IRIN) - At least 400 people - mostly women and children - have fled into southern Chad from the Central African Republic (CAR) in the past several days, after armed men raided their village, a UN official said on Thursday.

Refugees told officials of the UN refugee agency, (UNHCR), and the Chadian government that on 18 July men armed with rifles entered their village of Kadjama, about two kilometres from the border in northern CAR, and broke into houses stealing food and clothing.

The new influx comes just as UNHCR is completing an operation to relocate thousands of Central African refugees living in makeshift shelters in Chadian villages since fleeing conflict in CAR in June.

Earlier this week local authorities in southern Chad informed UNHCR's office in Gore, some 500 km south of the capital N'djamena and close to the CAR border, that new refugees were arriving.

George Menze, head of UNHCR in Gore, told IRIN that his office had verified some of those reports after conducting a joint mission with Chadian officials to the border region on Wednesday.

UNHCR will continue investigations to determine the exact number and location of the refugees, he said.

Those refugees already located will be transferred as soon as possible to the Amboko camp near Gore, which already houses over 15,000 refugees most of whom fled from political violence in CAR years ago, Menze said.

But heavy rains that can make roads impassable for days at a time are hampering the transfer operation, UNHCR's Marie-Christine Boccoum told IRIN from N'djamena.

Thousands of Central Africans fled to Chad in June to escape fighting between government forces and unidentified armed groups, according to UNHCR.

They spent weeks living in or near Chadian villages near the border.

UNHCR received special permission from the government to transfer the refugees to an existing camp at Amboko, as they were worried that the rains would eventually cut them off from humanitarian assistance. Many of the refugees were surviving on little more than wild roots and fruits.

Initially UNHCR estimated that 10,000 refugees were scattered through 17 villages along the border region.

To date UNHCR has transferred 3,600 Central African refugees to Amboko, Boccoum said.

Another UNHCR official told IRIN some of the refugees have opted not to go to the camp, preferring instead to stay near the border.

The refugee arrivals of the past two months join about 30,000 Central Africans who fled fighting in CAR in 2002 living in Amboko and a second camp, Yaroungou, also in southern Chad.

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