HEADLINES: Refugee

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Looming cuts to refugee health benefits are inhumane, unethical and won’t save the government money, say some Ottawa doctors. A program providing temporary health insurance to refugee applicants who aren’t eligible for provincial or territorial coverage will be pared back starting June 30, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney announced last month. The Interim Federal Health Program will no longer include vision, dental or supplemental health benefits for current and future asylum seekers. Most pharmaceutical benefits will also dry up. Some claimants will still have access to hospital services, doctors and nurses, ambulances and medications or vaccines in urgent or essential situations. Others, including those whose claims have been rejected, will have access to services only to “prevent or treat a disease posing a risk to the public health or a condition of public safety concern.” Dr. Mark Tyndall, head of infectious diseases at The Ottawa Hospital, said the changes create a serious threat to public health. “If we are only allowed to offer care to someone when they are spitting up blood in the emergency room, they will most certainly have already infected others (with tuberculosis),” Tyndall said Monday at a news conference held by the Canadian Health Coalition. [National Post]

The two Sudans appear to be complying with a U.N. ceasefire ultimatum, which came into force on Friday — ending weeks of bitter border fighting over oil. But there remains a separate conflict in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan that has forced thousands to flee bombardment and hunger for newly independent neighbor South Sudan. Those refugees are streaming into the Yida camp in South Sudan, across the border from the Nuba Mountains in the South Kordofan area, Sudan’s last remaining oil-producing state. Communities there fought alongside the South during the long civil war. They say they are being punished for their loyalties and chased out by Sudanese government troops. Sudan claims pro-South rebels operate in the region. Human rights campaigners warn of ethnic cleansing by Sudan. [NPR]

Protesters in Syria are still being intimidated and murdered by government forces.  The status of thousands of detainees remains unclear.  And it is estimated that one million civilians are still in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.  Of that number the UN estimates that 300,000 are internally displaced.  Sixty-six thousand displaced Syrians are in neighboring countries.  In addition, inside Syria, 500,000 Palestinian refugees and a hundred thousand Iraqi refugees are feeling the effects of the violence. The United States has dedicated some $33 million to support the important work being done to assist and protect those in need in Syria and neighboring countries.  By working through international and nongovernmental organizations, U.S. government contributions tap into the infrastructure these organizations already had in place in Syria before the conflict started. [Voice of America]

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