The International Rescue Committee says fighting in western Darfur is threatening refugees in northeastern Chad. Recent clashes occurred just a few kilometers away from the Oure Cassoni camp near the town a Bahai.
Joseph Aguettant is the country director for the International Rescue Committee in Chad. From the town of Abeche, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.
“The situation is very tense. We operate in Bahai, which is the northern most town, very near the border to Sudan, on the border between Chad and Sudan. We are managing a camp of 25,000 refugees. And on Saturday last week there was a fierce clash and battle between Sudanese government forces and rebel fighters, the Sudanese rebel fighters, very near the camp, actually about 10 to 15 kilometers from the camp itself. So, you can imagine that the situation in the camp was tense, that the civilians felt that they were threatened. Fortunately, we haven’t had any civilian casualties so far,” he says.
Aguettant says the refugees in Oure Cassoni should be moved. “We believe that the safest (thing) for the refugees is in fact to be relocated further away from the border, at least 50 kilometers so that they can seek refuge and be safer. So, we are planning at the moment with our sister agencies to talk to the refugees and to organize a relocation in a safe manner. The refugees are prepared, at least some of them. And we’ll be working with them to ensure they can find safety further inside Chad,” he says.
The IRC country director says he hopes the relocation process could begin October 23rd, but says it’s a “complex process” to move 25,000 people. The IRC is working with the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR.