Home affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo says the number of refugees who have entered Zambia has risen to about 60, 000 following an influx of asylum seekers fleeing from the Democratic Republic Congo into the country.

In a Ministerial statement delivered to Parliament today, Kampyongo announced that Zambia was facing a humanitarian emergency of persons of concern following an influx of asylum seekers coming into Zambia from the DRC since January this year due to the unstable political atmosphere in that country.

“Madam Speaker, I wish to inform this House and the nation at large that our country is facing a humanitarian emergency following the influx of asylum seekers into Zambia from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most asylum seekers Madam Speaker are entering the country mainly through Chiengi district in Luapula Province, we have registered 3,700 asylum seekers since August 2017, the number of Congolese refugees who have entered Zambia since 2017 has since risen to over 6, 100. This is the highest number of refugees to enter the country over the past five years. The total number of Congolese refugees in Zambia has now increased to about 30, 000 in total. These together with refugees from Burundi, Rwanda and other countries will bring the total number of persons of concern in the country to over 60, 000,” Kampyongo said.

Kampyongo said the number of asylum seekers entering Zambia from DRC could increase to about 40, 000 if that country’s security continued to deteriorate.

“Madam, the main cause of asylum seekers from the DRC is instability in that country arising largely from the protracted governance that has engulfed the DRC owing to the failure to hold Presidential and General elections on schedule. There seems to be widespread unrest and violence perpetrated by ethnic and political groups which has forced many Congolese to seek safety across the boarder and especially in the Luapula Province of Zambia. Madam Speaker, about 25 to 100 people have been crossing from the DRC into Zambia everyday since September 2017, this trend is expected to continue as the situation in the DRC is projected to remain volatile. The number of asylum seekers entering Zambia from DRC could however increase significantly with any deterioration of security in that country. Worst scenarios suggest a massive influx of asylum seekers of more than 40, 000 from the DRC alone into Zambia,” Kampyongo said.

And Kampyongo said some of the refugee children were suffering from malnutrition while others had died due to inadequate health care.

“The majority of asylum seekers received so far have been predominantly children and women and children including expecting mothers. The asylum seekers have strained the health and other social structures particularly in Chiengi and Nchelenge districts in Luapula. There is also lack of shelter and adequate clean water supplies especially on entry boarders and indeed in the refugee temporal settlements,” said Kampyongo.

“Madam this influx of asylum seekers into Zambia calls for proactive preparedness on the part of government and its partners, this is because the situation is likely to deteriorate further into a humanitarian emergency.”