UN moves Sudanese refugees away from volatile Central African Republic border


Insecurity and logistical difficulties have prompted the United Nations refugee agency to relocate some 3500 Sudanese refugees from a camp in north-eastern Central African Republic (CAR) to safer areas in the south-central part of the country.

Some 500 people have been moved so far in the airlift carried out by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the CAR Government, which began last week and is expected to take about one month.

Most of the refugees at the Sam Ouandja camp originate from Dafak, a town roughly 200 kilometres away in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, UN News Service reports.
“They fled on foot in June 2007 to escape fighting and have been at Sam Ouandja ever since, but in conditions that over the past two years have become increasingly difficult,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.

Insecurity was a major factor in the decision to move the refugees, according to the agency. Sam Ouandja lies just 80 kilometres from the border with Darfur in an area with almost no government presence. As a result, the camp has found itself being frequently visited by fighters.
“The presence of armed bandits and rebels, and the withdrawal of MINURCAT, the UN peace-keeping mission securing the camp, are further reasons for the move,” said Mr. Mahecic.

UNHCR also faces extreme logistical difficulties in monitoring and assisting the refugees, whose camp is in a remote part of CAR with poor roads.

This has hampered the agency’s ability to transport aid to the camp, resulting in the delivery of assistance only every two or three months instead of every month.

The new camp, located outside Bambari, which is about a five-hour drive north-east of the capital, Bangui, is much more accessible. Refugees stay at the transit centre there for five days while constructing new family shelters with the kits provided by UNHCR, which recently opened a new office in Bambari.

UNHCR is assisting some 25,000 Congolese, Chadian and Sudanese refugees and another 192,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in CAR.