More refugees from Central African Republic flee into Chad, UN reports

24 February 2003 –

Raging clashes between government and rebel forces in the western Central African Republic (CAR) have driven an additional 15,000 people into southern Chad, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

The influx, steadily increasing over the last four days, brings the total number of refugees and returning Chadians around towns and border villages to an estimated 21,000 people. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that plans are underway to set up a camp for the refugees and to transport the returning Chadians home.

Following a fresh government offensive against rebels in the northern part of the CAR last week, Elike Segbor, the UNHCR's Representative for the CAR and Chad, estimates that as many as 1,000 people a day - some of them wounded and many others near exhaustion from walking over 200 kilometres to safety - are streaming across the border into neighbouring Chad.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency is making arrangements to re-establish a presence in Chad following the closure of its office there more than a year ago. This morning, a staff member attached to the Chadian Government's National Refugee Committee (NRC) was sent from the capital, Ndjamena, to the southern border areas to continue monitoring the situation and to help with preparations to transport Chadian nationals to their areas of origin, mainly in the Salamat prefecture.

UNHCR is also preparing to deploy an emergency team consisting of a site-planner, legal personnel and field staff who are expected to establish a new camp for the Central African refugees.

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