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Angola Fighting Drives Out More Refugees

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says fighting between Angolan government forces and the UNITA rebels in northern Angola has sent a new wave of refugees fleeing to the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The U.N. refugee agency says more than 3,000 Angolan refugees have arrived in the DRC town of Kimvula. It says the refugees are coming at a rate of 250 a day.

This new movement comes barely two months after more than 15,000 refugees fled to the DRC following a UNITA rebel attack on a northern Angolan town. Kimvula is 30 kilometers north of Angola's northern border with the DRC.

UNHCR spokeswoman Millicent Mutuli says the town already has close to ninethousand refugees from an earlier influx in August. Despite this, she says the local authorities and local population are very welcoming.

"These are people who are relatives and friends, so they have been aided by the local population to subsist, but we are now working to move them away from the border, mainly for then own safety," she said. "The location is too close to the border. We have already been allocated land within existing villages for this movement."

The UNHCR says it has begun to parcel land for the refugee settlement. Refugee families transferred to the area will receive two to three hectares of land to enable them to carry out basic subsistence farming. The families also receive initial food and household supplies.

Ms. Mutuli says the UNHCR assists local facilities such as hospitals and schools. She says the agency gives assistance to the community, rather than to individual refugee families, which "means the welcome can be pretty open-ended. There is a good neighborliness, a lot of supportiveness within the community. We do not see hostility and you find the refugees blending very well within these communities because the local population see a direct benefit to them," she said.

Ms. Mutuli says many of these refugees go back and forth across the border, depending on the severity of the fighting. She says 5,000 of the 15,000 Angolans who fled to the DRC in August have returned home. This latest influx brings the number of Angolans inside the DRC to close to 200,000.