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Refugees in Chad arrested for criticising voluntary return

August 7 - 2018 ABECHE
Darfuri returnees load their items into a WFP truck (WFP)
Darfuri returnees load their items into a WFP truck (WFP)

Four Sudanese refugees were arrested in a refugee camp in eastern Chad one week ago for criticising plans for the voluntary return of the refugees to Darfur.

Chadian authorities arrested the four Sudanese refugees from Gaga camp on July 31. The four, Abu Bakr Mahmoud Khatir, Adam Sharif, Yahya Hamid and Hammad Ahmad are being held in Um Leyouna prison, 70 kilometres east of Abeche.

One of the sheikhs of Gaga camp told Radio Dabanga that the arrest of the four was ordered by an official of the National Committee for the Reception and Registration of Chadian refugees, following a refugee meeting with the National Camps’ Committee.

“Abu Bakr criticised the plan for the voluntary return to Sudan during the meeting, he said that the return under the current circumstances is impossible,” the sheikh explained.

“The police then ordered the arrest of Abu Bakr and three other men, and transferred them to Um Leyouna prison.” The sheikh appealed to the Chadian authorities to immediately release the four detainees.

There has been a growing amount of plans by the Sudanese government for the voluntary return of displaced people in Darfur and Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries, who have been displaced by the armed conflict that erupted in 2003. People in the camps point to the insecurity that is still plaguing villagers in most parts of Darfur, despite the large yet partly successful disarmament campaign ordered by the Sudanese presidency last year.

300,000+ Darfuris

In May 2017, the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) published a factsheet reporting that 317,219 Darfuri refugees reside in twelve camps in eastern Chad. On 31 July, the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (Unicef) said there are 319,512 Sudanese refugees residing in the camps since 2003.

Sudan has instructed the acceleration of work on the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees in Chad and the return of Chadian refugees in Sudan.

In October 2017, Sudanese refugee leaders returned to their home villages for the first time this week on go-and-see visits organised by UNHCR. After more than a decade in exile, Sudanese refugees begin to look more seriously at returning to Darfur. In Chad the refugees face dwindling humanitarian support, with cuts to food rations, and limited livelihood opportunities and access to land.

The refugees in Chad suffer from a shortage of supplies of basic commodities such as sugar and cooking oil, a camp sheikh reported to Radio Dabanga in March this year.

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