Chad hosted around 330,500 refugees and asylum seekers, including about 260,000 from the Darfur region of Sudan in 12 camps in the east and 57,300 from the north of Central African Republic (CAR) in five camps in the south. At least 8,000 refugees remain in villages near the border where they have family or ethnic ties. Around 5,300 refugees, mainly from other countries other than Sudan and CAR, lived in the capital, N'Djamena. Almost all of the refugees from CAR resided in four camps: Amboko, Gondje, Dosseye, and Yaroungou. About 36,500 refugees entered during the year, including 25,400 from Sudan and 11,100 from the CAR.
Summary of 2008
There were no reports of refoulement during the year. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator identified the politicization and militarization of the refugee camps as "major and increasing concerns." The Sudanese rebel Justice and Equality Movement's (JEM), which the Government supports, recruited children in Djabal and other camps dominated by the Zaghawa ethnic group making up about 100,000 of the refugee population. Armed JEM members infiltrated Iriba and Bahai camps in particular and recruited heavily in majority Zaghawa camps such as Am Nabak and Oure Cassoni. Armed groups reportedly recruited refugees to re-enter Sudan for an attack on Khartoum in May and there was an upsurge in recruitment in the northern camps later in the year. There were some 124 attacks on refugees and aid workers by the end of October, including carjackings, armed robberies, and the killing of four aid workers, among them the country director of Save the Children-UK. The prevalence of female genital excision among refugees was 82 percent.
In the southern camps housing refugees from CAR, the rate of global acute malnutrition was moderate but, in the Sudanese camps in the east, it was over 10 percent in eight of 12 camps and over 12 percent in Oure Cassoni, Gaga, Farchana, and Kounoungou camps. Experts attributed this to ration cuts between April and August, new waves of refugees to Gaga and Kounoungou, agencies shifting aid to IDPs, and cutbacks due to insecurity.
Chadian rebels, including ethnic Tama based in Darfur, attacked the capital N'Djamena February 2-3 and fled back to Sudan. Nearly 200 persons died in the fighting and armed groups recruited ethnic Zaghawa refugees to help defend the city. EU commanders suspended the planned deployment of European Union Force (EUFOR) peacekeepers to eastern Chad to protect Darfur refugees. Rebels said the force would not be neutral because the former colonial power, France, was contributing more than half of the 3,700 soldiers. They accused French soldiers of supporting President Idriss Déby and helping him resist their assault but the French denied any direct involvement.
After Sudanese military air strikes on three West Darfur JEM strongholds February 8 drove some 13,000 destitute and malnourished refugees into Birak and Koruk. Chadian Prime Minister Nouradine Delwa Kassiré Coumakoye said the presence of Sudanese refugees could become a "bone of contention" between the two countries, threatened to expel them and to refuse entry to any new refugees, and asked the international community to relocate existing refugees to other countries. UNHCR sought to get them to go to Kounoungou camp in Guereda and Mile camp in Iriba some 50 km away although unknown armed men had recently looted and destroyed the market and school there. The agency offered shelter, mats, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets, anti-mosquito nets, and hygiene items and all aid and protection programs available to those who agreed. International agencies offered less aid to those who refused but local Chadians offered them food and water. Some 179 families agreed but, in Figuera, near Birak, unidentified armed men prevented them from boarding the UNHCR trucks. By March, UNHCR had managed to transfer nearly 5,400 to Kounoungou and 200 to Mile.
Also in February, the number of refugees from CAR entering at Maya and Bougounanga exceeded 10,500. UNHCR moved them to a transit center in Dembo where they received aid and later sought to take them to one of the three refugee camps near Gore.
In March, EUFOR did become operational with French forces from Farchana to the Sudanese border and Irish and Dutch in the IDP regions around Goz Beida in the southeast. Polish forces camped near Iriba near three refugee camps and EUFOR planned to rotate in and out of Bahai, near the far northern border where the Oure Cassoni camp is. Belgian and Austrian special forces patrolled around the two refugee camps near Guereda but there was no permanent EUFOR presence there.
In April, a fire broke out in Goz Amer camp and quickly destroyed about 270 thatch huts leaving 2,100 homeless and hospitalizing 24. The arid climate of the border region limited refugees' ability to use bricks in home construction. Also in April, the prefet of predominantly Tama Guereda banned the predominantly Zaghawa refugees from moving outside the camps.
In May, JEM rebels based in the Zaghawa-dominated Bahai region entered Sudan and attacked the capital, Khartoum.
In June, the Chadian National Army sealed off UNHCR's headquarters in Abéché as fighting broke out with rebels in Goz Beida near the border with Sudan and about 45,000 refugees in two camps where combatants harassed aid workers and looted UNHCR supplies. EUFOR intervened and relocated the aid workers but not the refugees.
In October, a group of women refugees in Am Nabak camp forced their way into and area where UNHCR and its partners were registering refugees and threatened to stone them. Gendarmes of the Commission Nationale d'Accueil et Réinsertion des Réfugiés (CNAR) with EUFOR support intervened and evacuated the international staff who did not return by year's end. In December, the UN reported the presence of armed men in the camp, which housed 16,000.
In December and January 2009, more than 4,500 mostly women and children fled rebel attacks and fighting between the Government and rebels in northern CAR for southeastern Chad. They arrived without provisions and aid agencies found it difficult to reach them but Chadian locals in Daha shared food and water with them after local markets sold out.
Law and Policy
Chad recognizes all persons from the Darfur region of Sudan and rebel-affected areas of CAR refugees prima facie but only if they remain in camps. If such persons approach CNAR elsewhere, they must first give to the Eligibility Committee protection or security-related justification for leaving the camps. If the Eligibility Committee approves, they may then begin an individual refugee status determination process. Chad, however, does not have an asylum law. In 2007, the Government and UNHCR drafted one but the Government did not approve it.
Chad is party to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees without reservation, as well as the 1969 Convention governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. Its 1996 Constitution provides for asylum and forbids the extradition of "political refugees." Chad has a Memorandum of Understanding with UNHCR, reiterating the Government's commitment to protecting asylum seekers against refoulement.
The UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) and the 3,300-troop European Forces (EUFOR) derives from the UN Security Council's Chapter VII powers. Its mandate includes taking "all necessary measures ... to contribute to the protection of civilians in danger, particularly refugees" with explicit reference to preserving the civilian nature of the refugee camps and preventing recruitment of individuals, including children, in or around the camps. It also includes selection, training, and support of a police Integrated Security Detachment (DIS) to maintain law and order in refugee camps and neighboring towns. As September, however, the UN had trained only 324 of the 850 members of the DIS envisioned and deployed none to eastern Chad. EUFOR's positioning outside camps and humanitarian hubs, however, did not enable it to respond to daily threats to refugees including banditry, rape, and forced recruitment inside the camps. In January 2009, the Security Council voted to replace EUFOR with a 5,200-person UN force by March.
Detention/Access to Courts
UNHCR monitors the detention of refugees. In principle, refugees have access to courts but there are none in the camps, hardly any functioning in the east of the country, and those in the capital are costly and slow. Refugees settle minor disputes through elected committees inside the camps that may order compensation but cannot arrest or detain.
Only refugees in urban areas receive individual identity cards. Camp-based refugees receive only family-based attestations of refugee status that CNAR and UNHCR jointly issue and ration cards.
Freedom of Movement and Residence
The Government requires refugees to obtain safe-conduct passes before leaving the camp regions which CNAR, based in each camp, although there is no provision of law regulating this. Applicants must specify the location to which they wish to travel and the time period and stick to them. Authorities particularly restrict movement in times of conflict and can be arbitrary in denying or renewing passes. Officials at checkpoints considered passage without permits to be illegal and demanded bribes of refugees seeking it. Food aid is not available outside the camps.
Recognized refugees can obtain international travel documents from UNHCR via CNAR if they present a written request and have recognized status, identity documents, valid reasons for travel outside Chad, and show ability to buy plane tickets or support themselves elsewhere. In 2008, authorities issued nearly a hundred such documents, mostly to Sudanese refugees.
The Constitution reserves its right to freedom of movement to citizens.
Right to Earn a Livelihood
Refugees in urban areas may work without permits but employers sometimes demand letters from CNAR specifying this. Refugees can own businesses if they have the requisite licenses. Labor legislation applies equally to refugees and nationals.
Refugees in Chad have the right to own both moveable and immoveable property.
Public Relief and Education
Refugees and asylum seekers have the same rights as nationals to public relief, rationing, and health services. Chad does not restrict aid organizations in their attempts to help refugees. Camp residents receive food rations, unlike those in the capital, but refugees in N'Djamena receive legal, social, and medical help when necessary.
Refugees have access to primary education at least on par with nationals. In the camps, there are 80 primary schools where about 80 percent of boys and 39 percent of girls are enrolled and, on average, one teacher per 60 children.
In addition to its a head office in N'Djamena and a sub-office in Abéché UNHCR maintains and field offices in Bahai, Farchana, Goz Beida, Guereda, Iriba, Koukou, and an antenna office in Amleyouna in eastern Chad, and employs about 50 international and 200 national staff and 40 implementing partners.
Chad mentions refugees' influx as a negative impact but also acknowledges refugees as a marginalized population in its 2008 Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper it prepared for the International Monetary Fund and other international donors. It complains about the late delivery of international aid but offers no vision of refugee participation in economic development.