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Tensions high on Chad-Darfur border as refugee movements continue - UN

14 March 2008 – The border between Chad and Sudan's Darfur region remains volatile as the United Nations refugee agency continues to move thousands of civilians who fled recent air and ground attacks against towns in West Darfur further inside their neighbouring country.

“The constantly changing security situation regularly affects our relocation operation,” Ron Redmond, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said today in Geneva.

Heavy explosions are frequently heard coming from the border area, and there are continuous sightings of armed groups in vehicles and on horseback, he said.

Despite these obstacles, Mr. Redmond reported, through yesterday UNHCR convoys managed to transfer 1,063 refugees of the 13,000 who fled fighting that erupted in early February in West Darfur to the Kounongou refugee camp in eastern Chad.

Some refugees said they had buried bags of grain in their villages before fleeing and had returned to find that their supplies had been discovered and destroyed by the Janjaweed militia, leaving them with nothing and forcing them to return to Chad.

Others said they had previously fled Darfur for Chad in 2003 and 2004, but had returned to Darfur in 2007 following inter-ethnic tensions in Chad between Zaghawas and Tamas. The latest fighting in northern Darfur has forced them to flee to Chad yet again.

UNHCR and its partners already take care of 240,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur in 12 camps scattered across eastern Chad, Mr. Redmond said.

He added that UNHCR teams also report that in the past three weeks, hundreds of Chadians have recently arrived in areas of West Darfur, stating that they are fleeing inter-tribal violence in Chad.

In northern West Darfur, meanwhile, UNHCR is carrying out field missions to the locations affected by the recent attacks as part of a joint UN assessment process to identify humanitarian needs.

In some areas, the vast majority of the population has started to return to their villages, although some family members are still spread along the Chad-Sudan border, the missions report. In other places, like Sileah, most residents remain displaced.

Also today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed an agreement reached by the Governments of Chad and the Sudan on the margins of the summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Dakar, Senegal.

He called on the two countries to remain steadfast in their resolve to restore peace and stability along their shared border, saying it would contribute to wider stability in the region.

Meanwhile in Cameroon, UNHCR said it has now relocated some 8,400 Chadian refugees, who had fled fighting between Government forces and rebel groups in the country's capital, N'Djamena, in early February.

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