April 17, 2006 (GENEVA) — Chad has told the United Nations that some 200,000 refugees from Sudan’s Darfur will not be expelled despite an earlier warning that they might have to go in June, the U.N. refugee agency said on Monday.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement that Chad’s President Idriss Deby, who accuses Sudan of backing rebels that attacked the capital N’Djamena last week, had promised that nobody would be forced to leave.
"I ... am pleased to report that he (Deby) has reaffirmed that refugees will not be ’refouled’ (forcibly returned) and Chad will abide by international principles," said High Commissioner Antonio Guterres.
But Guterres, who spoke to Deby on Sunday night, said that the Chad leader had repeated his concerns about the difficulty of providing security for both the refugees and the humanitarian organisations that are helping them.
"UNHCR strongly appeals to the international community and its various organisations to do everything possible to urgently establish peace and security in Darfur," the former Portuguese prime minister said in the statement.
Thursday’s attack on the capital was the boldest yet by rebels who have vowed to end Deby’s nearly 16-year rule and block a May 3 presidential poll in which he is standing for re-election.
Deby says the international community has been slow to react to the border crisis with Sudan, a spillover from the Darfur conflict in which pro-Khartoum Arab militias battle other ethnic groups.
He had warned that if the international community did not solve the long-running Darfur crisis by June, and guarantee security on the border, then his country would no longer be able to shelter Sudanese refugees living in UNHCR-run camps.