ZAMBIA is on high alert to address the influx of refugees fleeing renewed clashes between Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Government forces and the M23 rebels, Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu has said.
Mr Lungu said the Government was following the crisis in the DRC closely and would fully address the influx of citizens from the neighbouring country.
The minister said the Immigration Department, health experts and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were working closely to avert a crisis.
"There is no need for panic. The situation is under control. We are ready as we knew that the fighting in DRC will result into an influx. They (DRC) are our neighbours and we have to help when need arises.
"If your neighbours are fighting, you should be ready to accommodate whoever wants to seek refuge in your home, so the issue of refugees is not new to Zambia, we have been handling similar cases in the past," Mr Lungu said.
Nchelenge District Commissioner Joseph Chisakula said in an interview yesterday that more than 400 refugees had settled in five villages.
"They have sporadically settled in five villages on Kilwa Island after fleeing Kilwa Mulenga Island on the DRC side and it is not easy to reach them but we are trying everything possible to deal with this issue," he said.
The refugees had settled in Ichisamba, Kabeke, Chifukulu, Bwaya and Kapoko villages on the remote island on Lake Mweru in Nchelenge District.
Congolese nationals started crossing into Nchelenge in Luapula Province last week on Thursday, but the influx had since remained minimal.
A screening process was currently being undertaken on the more than 400 refugees.
The UN predicted a humanitarian crisis in the DRC, where rebels took over the eastern city of Goma last Tuesday.
Humanitarian aid groups fear that hundreds of children separated from their parents risked being recruited by the rebels.