Boris Cheshirkov, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sounded the alarm at a regular press briefing, telling journalists that more than 30,000 people had crossed the border into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo.
UNHCR has strengthened its presence along the Ubangi River where some 24,196 people fled into the DRC’s provinces of Bas Uele and North-Ubangui, he said.
UNHCR is concerned that violence surrounding the general election in the Central African Republic has forced over 30,000 people to flee into neighboring countries.
Tens of thousands more have been displaced inside the country. https://t.co/6hnXn6VY4p
— UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency (@Refugees) January 8, 2021
“At least 15,000 arrived in Ndu village following attacks on the towns of Damara and Bangassou on 2 and 3 January”, which, with a population of 3,500, had “placed a massive strain on resources and host families”, he added.
Another 4,434 people have reached Cameroon, 2,196 are in Chad and some 70 have crossed into the Republic of Congo, the agency is reporting.
As a preventative measure, since 15 December some 185,000 Central Africans have remained in the country, but fled into the bush, said Mr. Cheshirkov.
Although roughly 112,000 have since returned home, estimates from the UN humanitarian affairs coordination office (OCHA) reveal that around 62,000 people remain newly displaced.
“The reasons why they move have been several, most are linked to the fear of violence and also as a preventative measure…We have had reports that they’ve been staying nearby home as a preventative measure until situation calms”, said Mr. Cheshirkov.
“They reported they did witness violence, and fled”, he added, noting that receiving authorities are already encountering problems coping with the influx, and “the need to be provided with assistance is there”.
The UN official also raised concerns over reports of human rights violations linked to the 27 December presidential elections.
Be a good neighbour
On behalf of UNHCR, the spokesperson urged governments in all neighbouring countries to “continue granting access to asylum and support local authorities in registering new arrivals”.
As most newcomers are staying with host communities or in makeshift shelters, he said their needs were urgent, including water and shelter as well as health and sanitation facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.
UNHCR is doing its part by working with the authorities and humanitarian partners to support the most vulnerable, including in Cameroon where it is providing protection and aid.
As refugees are being registered in Chad, the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food rations to the new arrivals, and UNHCR is assisting with a mobile health clinic.
And the UN refugee agency continues to work closely with authorities and partners inside CAR – monitoring the protection of the displaced and supporting returnees and reintegration efforts.
The spokesperson noted that nearly a quarter of the country’s population of 4.7 million was forcibly displaced by the end of 2020, including 630,000 refugees in neighbouring countries and 630,000 displaced internally.