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UNHCR Moving 10,000 Angolan Refugees - 2001-08-28

The U.N. Refugee Agency says it is moving nearly 10,000 Angolan refugees from border areas south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's capital, Kinshasa. The refugees are being moved to villages 50 kilometers farther into Congo.

The 10,000 Angolans are currently living at two locations along the DRC border with Angola. They fled there earlier this month to escape intensified fighting between Angolan government forces and UNITA rebels. Since then, they have been living in makeshift shelters in difficult conditions.

UNHCR spokeswoman, Millicent Mutuli says the border areas are not safe. She says the refugees are being moved to eight Congolese villages 50 kilometers away. Ms. Mutuli says the road conditions are so bad that most of the people will not be able to make the journey by truck and will have to walk. "We expect we can get groups of 600 walking from Kidompolo to Zulu and Zompfi," she said. "The plan is to have these people stop at a rest station at least 17 kilometers from Kidompolo where MSF (Medecin Sans Frontiere) has set up a rest station that will provide water and any other assistance."

From there, Ms. Mutuli says the refugees will go to a transit center about 30 kilometers from the border. She says they will spend the night there before going on to the villages Wednesday.

Ms. Mutuli says there are arrangements to transport those refugees who are too weak to walk. "There are certainly groups that we define as vulnerable. These would include people who are sick, the elderly, pregnant women, children very young children," Ms. Mutuli said. "So, these groups will have to move by truck. Despite very, very difficult road conditions, we have prepared trucks to move them."

The group, Doctors Without Borders (Medecin Sans Frontiere) will provide health teams along the route to take care of people who fall ill. Ms. Mutuli says the transfer is expected to be completed by September 6.

She says each Angolan family will receive a hectare of land in one of the eight Congolese settlement villages. She says the UNHCR will provide them with assistance for the next three to six months. After that, she notes, the refugees are expected to become self-sufficient.