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Sudanese Refugees Move To Safer Sites In Chad

UN Staff Begin Relocating Sudanese Refugees To Safer Sites In Chad

United Nations staff have started evacuating the first of thousands of Sudanese refugees from the Chadian border town of Tine, despite facing blinding sandstorms.

The first convoy of 147 refugees left Tine on Saturday, bound for a camp at Touloum, about 80 kilometres from the vulnerable Chadian-Sudanese border. A second batch of 225 refugees followed yesterday.

The refugees - who fled western Sudan's Darfur region because of violent civil conflict - are being relocated because their camps near the border have been attacked by armed militias.

Late last month the Sudanese section of Tine, which straddles the border, also came under aerial bombardment. Three people were killed in the attack.

A staff worker for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today described the scenes at Tine as "apocalyptic…goats and donkeys lying dead as families of refugees hid behind bushes to protect themselves from the wind and sand."

The agency is providing mats, blankets, soap and jerry cans to the refugees arriving in Touloum, as well as 15 days worth of food rations from the UN's World Food Programme (WFP).

Yvan Sturm, the head of UNHCR's emergency team in the region, said the transfer of the refugees took place under such harsh conditions that the agency had to limit the number of people it could transport. The sandstorms reduced visibility to zero, he said.

Over 4,300 refugees registered in and around Tine are designated to be moved to Touloum over the coming days.

UNHCR estimates at least 110,000 refugees have left Darfur since fighting erupted last March between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA).

Most of the refugees live in rudimentary shelters along the Chadian-Sudanese border, with little protection from the blistering heat of the day and the freezing weather at night. The agency is aiming to relocate as many refugees as possible before the onset of the rainy season in May, when the area's few roads are likely to become impassable.

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