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Growing violence worsening CAR refugee crisis: UNHCR

Around 60,000 people fled in December amid reports of 'abuses including sexual violence, attacks on voters, pillaging'

Growing violence worsening CAR refugee crisis: UNHCR FILE PHOTO


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Friday called for an immediate end to all armed violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), saying that some 60,000 people have been forced to flee the country since December.

There was “a two-fold rise in just one week” in the number of people seeking refuge in neighboring countries, UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov said at a news briefing in Geneva.

“Most have fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, across the Ubangui River, where the number of arrivals topped 50,000 after 10,000 Central African refugees arrived in a single day on Jan. 13,” he said.

Some 58,000 more people are displaced inside the CAR’s affected regions, while roughly 9,000 refugees fled to neighboring Chad, Cameroon, and the Republic of Congo last month.

Violence has flared in CAR since ex-President Francois Bozize’s candidacy for the Dec. 27, 2020 elections was turned down.

The retired general, who seized power in a 2003 coup, was ousted in a 2013 rebellion. Several militia groups, some close to Bozize, have since attacked civilians, armed forces, and UN peacekeeping forces.

At least six UN peacekeepers have been killed in recent weeks.

“The events of the last month – since reports of election-related violence began – reverse the trend of recent years of Central African refugees returning home,” Cheshirkov said.

He added that UNHCR and its partners in the CAR have received “reports of abuses by armed groups, including of sexual violence, attacks on voters and pillaging.”

“UNHCR is calling for an immediate return of all parties to meaningful dialogue and progress towards peace,” the spokesperson said.

The UNHCR warned that the “mounting” needs of people displaced from the CAR could soon cause “a substantial funding shortfall” that would derail assistance efforts.

“We call on the international community to urgently expand support to the CAR humanitarian response to allow more aid to reach those in remote areas,” Cheshirkov concluded.

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