“They are there on their own.”
Those words have been haunting us all day. We have now come further east from Abéché to Farchana. Within perhaps a 30-40 kilometre semi-circle around Farchana there are 3 major refugee camps as well as 12 sites for displaced Chadians. Farchana itself is not far from Chad’s border with Darfur.
Our intention today had been to travel to one of the sites for displaced Chadians in this region, Arkoum. We want to make it to several IDP sites during our mission because we have certainly come to understand that their safety and well-being is extremely precarious.
It is a universal story. Without any doubt refugees, including Darfuri refugees here in Chad, face considerable hardship, insecurity and violence. The international community does, however, have a much clearer role and responsibility for their protection. Not so with IDP’s, who remain, of course, citizens of the country, in this case Chad. Here, as is so often the case around the world, Chadians displaced within their own country have only minimal protection. Largely abandoned by their own government and not fully protected by the international community. And of course, still very near to the terrible human rights violations that forced them from their homes in the first place.
It is so important that we get access to some of the sites, to see and hear first hand the challenges displaced Chadians face. But while the refugee camps are all within fairly easy reach of the town of Farchana, our base, the sites for IDP’s are more remote and difficult to reach. And because of growing security concerns in eastern Chad, in the wake of a rebel incursion far to the south of here in Goz Beida, the UN decided today to cancel plans for a convoy to Arkoum, which we would have been part of. Instead we travelled to a nearby refugee camp, Bredjing, and spent the day working with Darfuri refugees.
A human rights monitor with the Association for the Promotion of Fundamental Rights in Chad who is usually based in Arkoum had intended to travel back out to the site with us today, but was obviously unable to do so. His worry was palpable. It was he who kept saying: “ils sont là; tous seuls” – they are there on their own.
It all comes down to security. In the midst of insecurity, the full range of human rights teeters and collapses. That of course has been the horrible reality in both eastern Chad and Darfur for the past five years. Insecurity means killings and rape; homes destroyed and crops burned. But it also means education, health, food and water supplies, and livelihoods are also turned inside out.
And it is still insecurity that reigns in eastern Chad. When I was here with an Amnesty team in late 2006 the local population, thousands of whom had recently been chased from their homes in a brutal wave of attacks, felt completely abandoned. The sad truth is that 2 ½ years later, even though international troops and police are now deployed here, displaced Chadians remain at terrible risk.
And whenever security concerns arise here, as they have again, they are the first to be cut off, the first to be abandoned. In so many respects, the most vulnerable yet the least protected. As our friend kept saying, they are on their own. We must find a way to stand with them.
- Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada
To listen to the original podcast and read more about the mission to Chad, visit the Amnesty Canada Mission Blog.