Refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Brazzaville

Briefing Notes, 23 July 1999

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Kris Janowski to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 23 July 1999, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Reports from UNHCR staff in the Central African Republic indicae that the rate of refugee arrivals from the Democratic Republic of Congo's northern Equateur province slowed yesterday, both in the capital of Bangui and to the east, around the town of Mobaye. Around 14,000 Congolese, including several thousand soldiers, have crossed from the DRC in the past three weeks.

UNHCR has set up a transit centre in the port of Bangui where food, medical care and emergency aid are distributed to refugees. In order to decongest the port, which has received 6,000 arrivals, a first convoy carrying 500 Congolese left yesterday to Bou Bou, a site 350 km from the capital. UNHCR plans to move 5,000 Congolese to Bou Bou over the next two weeks.

UNHCR is not involved in discussions between the CAR and the DRC on the soldiers, most of whom have reportedly given up their arms. This situation has occurred before, when troops entered Zambia with refugees from south-eastern DRC. They later returned to the DRC under an agreement between the governments.

In Gabon, the number of Congolese (Brazzaville) thought to have made their way to the capital, Libreville, stands at 2,000. Overall arrivals for the past 15 days are estimated at 25,000, with the provinces of Nyanga and Haut OgoouT the hardest hit of a half-dozen along the 1,000 km-long border.

Another emergency team member is travelling to Gabon tomorrow as UNHCR staff are working urgently on counts of urban refugees and on the delivery of more aid to the forested border regions. Blankets and cooking supplies will be flown in while soap and food are being purchased on the spot.

UNHCR and other agencies have stressed to authorities that camps should not be established close to the border. The agency's regional Director for West and Central Africa will be travelling to Gabon and the CAR in early August to meet with officials on the new refugee groups.