The U.N. refugee agency says it has transferred more than 5,000 new Sudanese refugees to two Chadian camps more than two months after fighting erupted in the northern part of Sudan's West Darfur region. The UNHCR says thousands more Sudanese refugees remain scattered in villages along the volatile Chad-Sudan border. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
UN Refugee spokesman Ron Redmond says the operation has taken an unusually long time to complete because of the difficulties facing the U.N. staff. He says aid workers have to contend with continuing insecurity along the border. And he says the logistical challenges of operating in such a remote environment have made the transfer operation extremely difficult.
"There has been sporadic military activity on the Darfur side of the border, and armed groups are often seen on the Chad side," said Redman. "On Sunday morning, a UNHCR team on the Chad side of the border witnessed aerial bombing on the Sudan side southeast of the Chadian border town of Birak."
The U.N. agency began the transfer operation in early March. Since then, it has moved nearly 5,300 of the new arrivals, most of them women and children, to Kounoungou Camp.
Redmond says the camp has almost 19,000 refugees and cannot absorb any more. So, he says, other refugees in need of shelter are being moved to another camp nearby called Mile.
"The first group of 112 refugees went to Mile on Tuesday, followed by a second group of 59 Wednesday. Most of the refugees had been living in the open since the fighting erupted in northern part of West Darfur on February 9," he said. "UNHCR is completing an extension of Mile Camp to accommodate a further four thousand refugees. Mile currently houses about 16,200 Darfurians."
The two camps are among 12 operated by UNHCR along a remote 600 kilometer stretch of the Chad-Sudan border. The camps house some 250,000 Darfur refugees.
About 8,000 people are still scattered along the border. UNHCR spokesman Redmond says he does not believe that all of these refugees will want to move to the camps. He says some continue to go back and forth across the border to check on their properties on the Sudanese side.