Last Updated: Friday, 11 July 2014, 08:07 GMT

Chad-Cameroon-Nigeria: Refugees still fleeing Chad

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 5 February 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Chad-Cameroon-Nigeria: Refugees still fleeing Chad, 5 February 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47b46145c.html [accessed 11 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
DAKAR/KANO/NDJAMENA, 5 February 2008 (IRIN) - Refugees fleeing the Chadian capital N'djamena are still swamping border towns in Cameroon and thousands have started queuing at Nigerian border posts, officials and refugees told IRIN.

However, N'djamena residents say overall, the flow of refugees has reduced since 4 February when reports from the city suggested the streets were clogged with residents taking advantage of a lull after two days of street fighting between the army and anti-government rebels to flee across the river into neighbouring Cameroon.

"Things have really calmed down since yesterday," an IRIN correspondent in N'djamena told IRIN by telephone in the afternoon of 5 February. "People are still leaving but it's nothing like before."

Aid agencies with staff in Kousseri, the closest town in Cameroon to N'djamena, said on 5 February large numbers of N'djamena residents were nonetheless still flowing over the bridge from N'djamena into the Cameroonian border town Kousseri.

"From what our people say it is a very confusing situation in Kousseri with people arriving on foot, by car, and on bicycles," said Paul Sitnam, humanitarian affairs officer with the non-governmental organisation World Vision, which has staff working in Kousseri and N'djamena.

Although the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says only 20,000 refugees have been registered in Cameroon so far, some international aid agencies say they are rushing staff and supplies to Cameroon to deal with what some of them estimate could be between 300,000 and 500,000 Chadians taking refuge in Kousseri ? approximately half the population of N'djamena.

UNHCR said in a statement that emergency relief supplies enough for 14,000 people will start arriving in Kousseri later this week, and refugees are being moved to a larger campsite away from the border large enough to accommodate 100,000 people.

Refugees, mostly women, children and the elderly, also started arriving at the Nigerian border with Chad at Fotokol to the northwest of N'djamena on 4 February, and continued to arrive on 5 February.

"We seized the opportunity offered by the lull in fighting in N'djamena to leave at 8:00 am yesterday because we are afraid fighting can resume at any moment since the rebels said they have only made a tactical retreat to the outskirts to re-strategise," Ismail Hamissou, a refugee who fled to Fokotol with his wife and 62-year old mother told IRIN in Kano by telephone.

"We trekked to Kusuri where we slept before arriving here this morning. We have registered our names with immigration hoping to be given some place to put up until the war is over," Hamissou said.

Madu Musa, deputy immigration chief in Borno state where Fokotol is located, told IRIN that over 3,500 refugees have arrived at the border crossing.

"We can't turn these people back on humanitarian grounds. All we require is for them to identify their nationality to know whom we are dealing with," Musa said.

"We have made provision for between 5,000 and 10,000 refugees because they are still coming and we know we will have a large number to cater for in the coming days", Ramat Ladi Usman, Borno state liaison officer for the National Commission for Refugees (NCR), told IRIN.

Refugees said they left behind all their possessions in N'djamena in the frantic effort to escape the violence.

"I thank God that I escaped with my life from N'djamena although I have lost all I strived for in 23 years", refugee Ahmad Iddris told IRIN by phone from northern Nigeria.

"Imagine living these days amidst street battle, aerial bombardment of rebel positions by government forces with the rebels responding with artillery fire. I shivered when I saw the decomposing bodies littering the streets of N'djamena while I was leaving", Iddris, whose textile shop was looted and burned, said.

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