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Relocation Efforts Delayed for 40,000 Darfur Refugees

The UN refugee agency still is not able to relocate about 40-thousand Darfur refugees in eastern Chad. The UNHCR says they are too close to the border with Sudan and too near the fighting between Sudanese government forces and rebels. About 25-thousand of the refugees are in the Oure Cassoni camp in Bahai with the rest in the Amnabak camp near Iriba.

Mathew Conway is a spokesperson for the UNHCR. From Abeche in eastern Chad, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about why relocation efforts have been delayed.

“There have been a couple of things that have slowed progress, one of them being locating a sufficient supply of water for the new sites. So we’re trying to see if there are other ways of supplying the sites from perhaps greater distances. The other resistance we’ve encountered is from some of the refugee leaders themselves, who are reluctant to be moved to these new sites. They feel that they’ve established homes now in the Oure Cassoni camp and they’re not very eager to be uprooted again, which is certainly understandable,” he says.

But the nearby fighting apparently is food for thought for some.

Conway adds, “I think there are mixed feelings within the refugee communities themselves. I think their opinion is divided. I think there are a lot of people who realize that it is in their best interests to move, but understandably there are a lot of people who don’t want to be moved further away from the border. They want to stay as close to their original home areas as possible.”

He says national and local authorities have given the go ahead for the relocation, saying that the UNHCR will continue to try to persuade the refugees to move.