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Darfur refugees in Chad to receive identity cards under UN-backed scheme

2 June 2009 – Some 110,000 Sudanese refugees over the age of 18 in eastern Chad will receive identity cards under a new programme launched with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“The ID cards are the equivalent of a ‘refugee passport’ allowing free movement within the host country and providing access to some basic services in line with the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention,” agency spokesperson Ron Redmond told reporters in Geneva.

The agency distributed the first 10 ID cards, which are printed by UNHCR and issued by the Chadian Government, in a symbolic ceremony on Monday in Gaga refugee camp, near Abéché.

UNHCR noted that the joint initiative had been in the works since late 2006. Identity and age verification exercises in all 12 camps in eastern Chad hosting some 250,000 refugees from Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region were initially scheduled to start in 2008.

However, ongoing insecurity in eastern Chad pushed back those exercises until this April. Some 37,000 refugees in Gaga and Farchana camps have been processed so far.

“We plan to distribute all 110,000 ID cards by the end of this year, provided that the verification process is not interrupted again,” Mr. Redmond said. “Since the latest Chadian rebel incursion on 4 May, our regular daily access to refugee camps is still problematic due to security restrictions.”

Meanwhile, UNCHR said that refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in small groups in the village of Daha, in south-eastern Chad’s Salamat region, as well as in the vicinity of Danamadji in southern Chad.

Some 17,000 CAR refugees – who fled fearing fresh clashes between the Government and rebels – found shelter in six spontaneous sites which sprung up in Daha and Massambagne villages since mid-January, Mr. Redmond reported.

“In southern Chad, we now care for 73,000 refugees hosted in five refugee camps and six spontaneous sites,” he said, adding that UNHCR teams in this part of Chad are providing protection and emergency assistance. It is also distributing shelter material and household items to all newly arrived families – mostly women and small children.

“Together with our partner agencies we secured refugee access to education and clean water and built latrines, and we are pre-positioning food-rations sufficient for six months. As of mid-June when the rainy season will start, the CAR refugees in south-eastern Chad will be basically cut off from assistance as it will be physically impossible to reach them,” said Mr. Redmond.

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