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Sudanese Rebel groups continue recruiting refugees

Sudanese Rebel groups continue recruiting refugees in camps in Chad, UN reports

Rebel groups are reportedly continuing to recruit men and boys in camps in Chad that shelter 200,000 Sudanese who have fled the fighting in the Darfur region of their own country, and the Chadian Government must take all necessary steps to stop such activities, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said today.

“People who have fled the horrors of Darfur have already suffered enough,” UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva. “It is totally unacceptable that refugee camps become recruiting grounds and that children under the age of 18 are being victimized.”

In March, 4,700 men and boys were forcibly or voluntarily recruited in Breidjing and Treguine refugee camps by rebel groups, and last month Goz Amir camp was reportedly the scene of recruitment activities as well.

“These activities have not stopped, according to refugees, and we fear recruitment could also be spreading to other refugee sites in eastern Chad… despite UNHCR’s previous denunciation of such activities and our repeated appeals to the Chadian government to ensure that the civilian character of refugee camps is maintained,” Mr. Redmond said.

Young refugees who managed to return to the camps said they were taken to training areas along the border and taught, among other things, how to clean weapons. Those who refused were beaten, refugees said. They were told that after training, they would be sent to fight in the three-year-old war between Darfur rebels and the Sudanese Government. Earlier this month, one rebel group and the Government signed a peace agreement.

Several hundred young men and boys from Breidjing and Treguine camps are reportedly still missing and are believed to be in the training camps somewhere. Those who managed to escape and return to the camps now say they are afraid the rebel groups will return and find them.

“UNHCR again calls on the Chadian government to do everything it can to ensure the civilian character of the refugee camps and to ensure security in and outside of the camps. This is absolutely essential because there are reports indicating some local camp leaders and Chadians are condoning the recruitment,” Mr. Redmond said.

Camp leaders say they fear such activities will make the camps subject to attack. UNHCR has had several high-level meetings with Chadian authorities over the past two months stressing their obligations towards refugees under international law.

UNHCR has been conducting awareness campaigns in the camps. Agency teams are visiting camp schools to inform children of the dangers and working with the Chadian-supplied gendarmes who are assigned to ensure security in and around the camps.

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