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Darfur Fighting Forces 40,000 Sudanese To Chad

Darfur Fighting Forces UN To Relocate More Than 40,000 Sudanese Refugees In Chad

The ongoing deterioration of security in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region and throughout neighbouring eastern Chad highlights the urgent need to move more than 40,000 Sudanese refugees further away from the border and deeper into Chad, the United Nations refugee agency warned today.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) voiced deep concern over heavy fighting on Saturday between the Sudanese Army and rebels within a few kilometres of the Ouré Cassoni refugee camp on the Chadian side of the border.

“Although no one in or around the camp was harmed refugees and humanitarian workers were certainly alarmed by the gunfire and bombardment just across the border,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.

“With the deterioration of the security situation, it is now urgent that the relocation take place and we are preparing plans accordingly. We will have to put in place some emergency measures, such as moving refugees to existing camps or to temporary transit sites until a proper site is actually developed. This could take several months.”

She said Chadian authorities had granted the agency permission to survey open land near the town of Biltine. “Meanwhile, UNHCR and its partners continue their normal activities in the camps with some limitations, including the necessity of travelling to the camps under armed escort,” she added.

The warning was just the latest by UNHCR over the deteriorating situation threatening some 213,000 Sudanese in Chad who have fled three years of fierce fighting between the Government, allied militia and rebels. Up to 400,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the conflict, according to UN Children’s Fund UNICEF) figures, and a further 2 million to have been displaced within Darfur.

Just last week, the agency warned that its operations in Chad were threatened by armed groups which continue to target humanitarian workers in Chad and steal their vehicles.

Today Ms. Pagonis said that while most of the 12 UNHCR-run camps in eastern Chad are at least 50 kilometres from the border, Ouré Cassoni is only 5 kilometres and Am Nabak, 18 kilometres from the frontiers. The camps respectively host 26,300 and 16,500 people.

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