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Displaced villagers in eastern Chad make their way home with UN help

27 May 2011 – Villagers uprooted by violence in eastern Chad several years ago have begun returning to their homes with the help of the United Nations refugee agency now that security has improved in the region.

So far, more than 14,000 of the 130,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled inter-ethnic fighting in 2005 and 2006, when conflict spilled over from the troubled Darfur region of Sudan, have signed up for return, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Since Saturday, the agency has organized return convoys carrying over 500 passengers, and one also left this morning.

“As more continue to register, we are planning to organize convoys every other day,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a news conference in Geneva.

She noted that some 50,000 spontaneous returns have already taken place since last year as villagers went home on their own within eastern Chad’s Dar Sila and Assoungha regions.

Some IDPs have returned on their own to areas that have been deemed “not conducive for return” by UNHCR. While the agency does not organize convoys to those areas, it does provide those returnees with the same assistance package given to the others.

Among the challenges faced by returnees is the lack of socio-economic conditions for reintegration. As a result, some of the IDPs say they are still hesitant and prefer to remain where they are or to relocate to other areas.

Earlier this month, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos reported that a number of factors had contributed to improved security for civilians in eastern Chad.

These included better bilateral relations between Chad and Sudan; the deployment of a joint border force on their shared border; an increase in the number and deployment of personnel providing security in and around camps for refugees and IDPs, and for humanitarian operations.

In addition, there have been no reports of armed clashes in eastern Chad since April 2010, she told a meeting of the Security Council.

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