Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo says government regrets the death of the seven Congolese refugees who died in Chiengi district after their boat capsized when trying to return to their country.

And Kampyongo has cautioned traditional leaders in Chiengi and Nchelenge districts against harbouring refugees in their villages but to ensure that they report their presence to the authorities.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday, Kampyongo said government regretted the death of the seven Congolese refugees who had drowned on Friday on lake Mweru.

“Government deeply regrets the death of seven Congolese refugees who drowned on Friday, May 18, 2018, when the boat they were travelling in capsized on lake Mweru in Chienge, Luapula province. The deceased, all children and adolescents, were part of a group of refugees who had left Kenani Transit centre in Nchelenge district to return home in Congo DRC without informing the authorities,” he said.

“The accident occurred when a Banana boat, laden with luggage and people capsized and sank while it was being towed by another boat carrying the refugees as a result of strong winds before they could reach Kasote village. Consequently, the other boat also capsized leading to the death of the seven children. Four bodies were recovered on May 19 while the other three were retrieved on May 21. Burial of all the deceased took place in Chiengi and was witnessed by 22 refugees who survived the accident.”

And Kampyongo noted with regret that refugees had been deserting their transit center at Kenani and going into neighbouring villages to avoid being relocated.

He cautioned traditional leaders against harbouring the refugees in their villages.

“It has been noted with regret that the refugees at Kenani have been deserting the transit centre without following established procedures for assisted voluntary repatriation and filtering into neighbouring villages to avoid relocation to Muntapala. Let me caution village headmen and other traditional leaders in Chienge and Nchelenge districts against harbouring refugees in their villages but [to] ensure that they report their presence to the authorities,” he said.

Kampyongo further revealed that calm had returned in Congo DRC but urged the refugees who wanted to return to their country to follow the right procedures.

“We are pleased to see that calm seems to be returning in Congo. We have recorded a reduction in terms of people coming from the Congo DRC. But that should not encourage those that are already in our custody to leave their camps without following the prescribed procedures,” he said.

Meanwhile Kampyongo said resource mobilisation was one of the challenges that government and cooperating partners were trying to address.

“Yes indeed the resource mobilisation is one of the challenges we are trying to address working with our cooperating partners. There is need for a little bit more resources because there is a lot more that needs to be done. And I think tomorrow (today) we shall be relaunching the appeal for further resources. As government we also doing our part,” he said.

“Kenani now stands about 15,000. But UNHCR working with the commissioner for refugees have managed to repatriate about 5000 plus from Kenani into Mantapala and they are settling down well from what we were able to see.”