The United Nations refugee agency is reporting growing violence against Sudanese refugees in and around camps in eastern Chad. The agency says steps are being taken to improve security for refugees who have fled the conflict in Darfur.

The U.N. refugee agency says three refugees have been killed in recent days. It says others have been attacked and beaten, their sheep have been stolen and, in at least one case, a girl who left the camp to collect firewood was raped.

Agency Spokesman Ron Redmond says the refugees and Chad authorities blame Chadian nomads for the recent violence. He says they do not hold the local people who live in villages near the camps responsible for the escalating violence.

"Nevertheless, the incidents are indicative of increasing tension between the refugees and the local population, due to a lack of resources," he noted. "While the Sudanese refugees were openly welcomed by Chadians belonging to the same ethnic groups when they first crossed the border, there is some resentment among local people, who now say the refugees in the camps are living better than they do."

Nearly 200,000 refugees from Darfur have fled to Chad since fighting between Black-African rebel groups and Sudanese-backed Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, broke out early last year. U.N. officials say refugees who were gathered at the border were subjected to attacks by the Janjaweed who crossed over from Sudan, beat them and stole their cattle.

Mr. Redmond says the UNHCR moved the refugees to 10 camps built at least 50 kilometers away from the border to protect them from these attacks. He says the refugees now are being victimized by Chadian nomads. He says High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers, was made aware of these worrisome developments when he visited the camps a few days ago.

"We are doing what we can to help reduce the friction between the refugees and the local communities," he said. "The High Commissioner said more needs to be done. He called on donors to increase contributions to help local communities around the 10 camps that we have in eastern Chad. And, he also announced a number of UNHCR-financed projects, aimed at helping local people near refugee camps."

The UNHCR spokesman says efforts are being stepped up to improve security in and around the refugee camps. He says 180 Chadian police, 20 of whom are women, have begun patrols around the 10 camps. He says the U.N. agency has given the police nine vehicles to help in their work.