UN agency calls for increased security near Sudanese refugee camps in Chad

Just yesterday, a group of 150 armed men, described by locals as Janjaweed, a pro-government militia accused of some of the worst atrocities in the Darfur conflict, surrounded Chadian villagers near the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camp of Goz Amir and opened fire on them, killing four and wounding five. They also stole about 1,000 head of cattle.“Local Chadian residents throughout the region are now telling our staff on the ground that they are very frightened, and that if humanitarian agencies were ever forced to withdraw from the area, they too would have to move in search of a safer haven,” UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told a news briefing in Geneva.“Despite the presence of about 18 Chadian gendarmes around each refugee camp in eastern Chad, there is a need to further increase security in the region,” she added. “The growing numbers of attacks near Goz Amir camp is a matter of grave concern to UNHCR.”Three years of fighting between the Sudanese Government, pro-government militias and rebels in Darfur have driven more than 200,000 refugees into Chad where they are sheltered in 12 camps, 17,700 of them at Goz Amir. There are also 46,000 refugees from the northern part of the Central African Republic in southern Chad. On a brighter note, UNHCR reported that the first convoy of 160 Sudanese in Uganda left for home, part of what promises to be a massive effort to repatriate 350,000 Sudanese who fled to neighbouring countries from the long civil war between the Government and rebels in the country’s south, which ended in January 2005.From now until the rainy season starts in June, when roads become impassable, UNHCR plans to help 160 refugees a day return home. So far, 27,000 of the 174,000 Sudanese refugees in Uganda have registered to repatriate.There are also some 4 million internally displaced in South Sudan itself.

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