Geneva — The UN refugee agency reported on Friday a sharp rise this month in the number of refugees fleeing to Cameroon from Central African Republic (CAR), with almost 20,000 sheltering in the east after fleeing the violence in their homeland.
"Since the beginning of February, a total of 19,565 refugees from CAR have crossed into Cameroon to escape violence perpetrated by the former Seleka and anti-Balaka militiamen in Bangui and other towns in north-western CAR," UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton told journalists in Geneva. "The latest influx brings to 35,142 the total number of CAR refugees who have fled to Cameroon since March 2013, when the Seleka rebels came to power in CAR.
"Our colleagues in Garoua Boulay in eastern Cameroon witnessed the arrival on February 16 of 100 trucks carrying civilians from CAR. Additionally, some 3,000 people have been reported to have crossed the border into the town of Yokadouma in the south-east of Cameroon," McNorton said.
He added that they were coming from the Central African Republic capital, Bangui, and from localities such as Bossemptele, Bouar, Baboua, Beloko, Carnot, Boaro, Gambala, Berberati and Nola in the west of their country. "We started on Monday the registration of those new arrivals in Garoua Boulay, and our colleagues are in Yokadouma to verify new arrivals," McNorton said.
The growing number of new arrivals and their need for food and other basic necessities has resulted in higher prices and shortages of goods. Many of the refugees are living in appalling conditions, lacking sufficient food and shelter. Host communities have taken in many people, but they cannot share their homes and resources with everyone. Moreover, rent increases are also affecting local residents.
"We began to move refugees from Garoua Boulay to the new site at Mborguene, which can host up to 10,000 people. Meanwhile, we are also looking at another site in Lolo, 46 kilometres from the border in the eastern region, which can take up to 15,000 refugees," McNorton said.
In a separate development, 7,921 third-country nationals have arrived in Cameroon from Central African Republic. They are mainly from Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger and are being repatriated by their governments. As of today, 2,774 have been repatriated. Before the current crisis, Cameroon was hosting 92,000 refugees from Central African Republic; the first started to arrive in 2006 to escape from rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.