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More than 10,000 Angolans fled to DR of Congo following UNITA attack: UNHCR

More than 10,000 Angolans fled to DR of Congo following UNITA attack: UNHCR

More than 2,000 new Angolan refugees have arrived in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the last few days, bringing to nearly 10,000 the number of people who fled northern Angola to the DRC following a rebel offensive earlier this month, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

According to Kris Janowski, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), non-governmental organizations working in the area say the 2,000 refugees who began arriving in the small Congolese town of Kimvula this week have settled in several villages in the region.

Kimvula is some 120 kilometres east of an area called Kitompolo, which in the last 10 days has also received thousands of new Angolan refugees fleeing the same conflict, the spokesman said. By Thursday, UNHCR had registered some 7,200 new refugees there, while an estimated 700 others are still in border villages near the area.

Because of increasing numbers of new arrivals, UNHCR has requested Congolese authorities to make available more areas for the settlement of the estimated 10,000 refugees.

Many refugees told UNHCR how the years-long conflict between Angolan government troops and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) had forced them to leave their homes more than a dozen times for safer areas inside Angola. This was, however, the first time they had been compelled to cross the border, Mr. Janowski said.

The refugees, mainly women and children, fled with few belongings and are living in extremely difficult conditions under rudimentary shelters along the border. They are in generally good physical condition. UNHCR has deployed additional staff to the border to assist with registration, the distribution of basic supplies and to expedite arrangements for the transfer of the refugees away from border areas.