CHAD EU must not pressure refugee return to insecure areas

CHAD (July 21, 2008) – On the eve of a high-level meeting of Foreign Ministers from across the European Union (EU), CARE International is publishing a study calling on the EU to increase support for internally-displaced people (IDPs) in Chad. Most critically, the CARE report also calls on the EU to not succumb to political pressure to push for returns of vulnerable communities to insecure areas. The study is based on a wide-ranging field survey of people caught up in the violence, and forcibly displaced from their homes in Eastern Chad.

“The first priority of UN and European efforts must be restoring security to the region to create a safe environment for IDPs and for those affected by the conflict,” said Stephen Cornish, CARE Humanitarian Advisor and author of the study. “To encourage these people to return to their villages before their security has been assured would be a betrayal of both the humanitarian goals of the mission, and the trust these people have placed in us.”

The study by CARE gives voice to a number of shared concerns across displaced communities in Chad. One woman interviewed told the researchers: “We want to go back to our village but we can’t go back to the violence, we can only return if the armed men leave.” A man interviewed said: “I cannot say it is safe enough for the others to return, as we don’t have the strength to stop the Jenjawed from attacking”. Ninety-nine per cent of surveyed (IDPs) cited security concerns as the number one reason preventing their return to their villages of origin. Given the current environment, when queried as to the best durable option for their families’ wellbeing only 11 per cent stated a voluntary return to their villages of origin would be in their best interest - with 79 per cent stating that they would prefer local integration in the host sites where they were presently settled.

According to he UN’s Guiding Principles on Displacement, IDPs in Chad are entitled to both humanitarian aid and to a safe place of refuge. In addition, durable and secure solutions for their long-term well being must be found prior to promoting returns to their villages of origin. The EU has deployed a military mission to the country, ‘EUFOR’, and given its support to the UN assistance mission MINURCAT in order to help re-establish government authority and provide security for those affected by the ongoing violence and instability.

European foreign ministers are due to discuss the Chad situation at the EU Council meeting on Tuesday, July 22. Humanitarian agencies have raised concerns that actions taken by the UN mission and by some EU countries contributing forces to EUFOR on the ground have prematurely sought to encourage displaced people back to their villages. They are also calling on donors to sustain and increase aid for life-saving humanitarian work in IDP sites, and not to shift funding towards supporting returns in the absence of security.

Read CARE's Chad Country Overview.

For further information, please contact Stephen Cornish, [email protected]. Phone number: +1 613 228 5687.

About CARE: Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE has more than six decades of experience delivering emergency aid during times of crisis. Our emergency responses focus on the needs of the most vulnerable populations, particularly girls and women. Women and girls are at the heart of CARE’s emergency relief efforts because our experience shows that their gains translate into benefits for families and communities.