HEADLINES: Refugees

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Jordan opened a new refugee camp Tuesday near the border with Syria to accommodate the growing number of people fleeing the deadly violence in the neighboring country, days after the UNHCR appealed to the kingdom to make more room to meet the surge in the cross-border flow. Authorities here have been reluctant to set up refugee camps, possibly to avoid angering Syrian President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime by showing images at his doorstep of civilians fleeing his military onslaught against them. A separate camp, which was to host the UNHCR and the agency’s own tents, was set up months ago in the town of Ribaa Sarhan near the Syrian border, but has remained unused while Syrian refugees stayed in heavily-guarded housing compounds in several towns along the border. Jordan’s Information Minister Sameeh Maaytah said Tuesday the new camp in the northern border town of Ramtha had to be set up because Syrian refugees could no longer be absorbed into border communities. [Huffington Post]

The aid operation to support Malian refugees is threatened by a critically low level of funding, the UNHCR said today, adding that it and its partners are struggling to provide a basic level of humanitarian standards for the displaced. “For UNHCR, only $34.9 million has been received against an appeal for $153 million – that is just 22.7 per cent of the funding needed. Our partners, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also report poor funding levels for refugee operations in the region,” a spokesperson for the Office of the UNHCR told reporters at a briefing in Geneva. Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels resumed in northern Mali in January. The instability and insecurity resulting from the renewed clashes, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, and political instability in the wake of a coup d’état in March, have uprooted nearly 365,000 people, with many of them fleeing to Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, as well as other parts of Mali. [UN News Centre]

Refugee students from Congo, Somalia, Sudan and Nepal who are attending Cottonwood High School don’t always share stories about their own heritage while immersing themselves in the ways of the American school system. It’s a conundrum social worker Chris Mockli, who works with refugee students in the Granite School District, wanted to solve by finding a way to encourage students from other parts of the world to teach classmates about the unique aspects of their cultures. So Mockli, along with other educators who work with the school’s 320 English language learners (ELL), brainstormed an idea to form a cultural exchange with students on The Uintah and Ouray Reservation of the Ute tribe, located in the Uintah Basin 150 miles east of Salt Lake City. About 50 of Mockli’s students recently visited the reservation near Fort Duchesne, where they learned about the history of the Ute Tribe and took part in an annual tradition called the “Bear Dance.” Students watched as tribe members played traditional music meant to imitate the growling of a bear emerging from hibernation. But soon, the Cottonwood refugee students got to give tribe members a taste of their own cultural traditions. From the hip-shaking of Somali students’ dance to the tranquil sway of Tongan hula dancers, students and tribe members were captivated by the diverse dances, said Mockli. “It’s about cultural exchange and service learning. It’s about learning from one another,” she said. “Some of the refugees students have lived in camps their whole lives. Some haven’t had school and had no idea there were tribes in Utah. They didn’t have any ideas about the Utes or who they were.” [The Salt Lake Tribune]

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