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UNHCR Chief Warns Sudan Violence Aggravating Refugee Crisis in Chad - 2004-03-02


The chief of the U.N. refugee agency says violence in western Sudan is aggravating an already serious refugee crisis in neighboring Chad. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers visited the remote refugee camp at Farchana, Chad.

The Farchana refugee camp lies on a hot and dusty plain about 50 kilometers from the border with Sudan. It is home to about 2,000 Sudanese refugees who have fled a bloody ethnic conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region. Chad is hosting about 110,000 Sudanese refugees and the UNHCR is scrambling to help them.

There is a lot of resentment among the refugees against the Sudanese government of President Oman Hassan al-Bashir, accused of backing Arab militiamen fighting rebels from Darfur's predominately black African population.

As Mr. Lubbers arrived for a tour of the Farchana camp, residents began chanting against the Sudanese leader. Speaking with reporters, Mr. Lubbers said the violence in Sudan is continuing, and refugees report ongoing attacks by pro-Bashir militiamen back by Sudanese government air support.

Mr. Lubbers said he discussed the situation with Chadian President Idriss Deby, who was pessimistic about a peaceful settlement of the Sudanese conflict anytime soon. "He is plenty concerned because it was only six months ago that he was optimistically thinking [Chad is] available to mediate and so on, but now he sees it becoming worse and worse," said Mr. Lubbers.

President Deby arrived in the region on Sunday for a firsthand look at the refugee crisis. Chadian officials who met him told reporters he plans to increase Chad's military presence to try to stop cross-border raids by the Sudanese militia, called the Janjaweed.

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