Headlines: Refugees

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According to U.S. officials and refugee advocates, heightened security concerns in the United States have stalled the immigration process for tens of thousands of Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government or American firms in Iraq and hope to move to the United States. A special program meant to distribute 25,000 visas to Iraqis who worked for the U.S. government has admitted just 7,000 since it started in 2008, officials said this week. In addition, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, a global program that also admits Iraqis, will admit about 6,000 Iraqis this year, down from 18,000 in fiscal 2010. [Washington Post]

With more than 60,000 starving and thirsty Somalis camped outside of the world’s largest refugee camp, what some aid agencies deem the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is facing its “critical days,” according to a UNICEF spokesperson. Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp, originally constructed to hold 90,000 people — making it the biggest camp in the world —  is now home to approximately 400,000 people. In addition to widespread poverty, the Horn of Africa is also suffering the effects of rising food prices and endless, destabilizing political conflict, particularly in Somalia, where the government controls little outside of the capital Mogadishu. [TIME]

Thousands of people are fleeing their homes in Pakistan’s tribal Kurram region, on the border with Afghanistan, after the army launched an operation in late June against insurgents. The UNHCR is stepping up aid to people uprooted from eight villages across an 80 square-km area in central Kurram Agency. It says more than 700 families have sought refuge in the past two weeks in a camp set up by local authorities in Durrani, around 30km from the conflict zone. Another 8,000 families are staying with host communities in urban areas and 200 more are sheltering in a school. Local officials believe the military operation could displace up to 12,000 families (around 84,000 people). [Reuters]

The International Organization for Migration, one of the four parties central to Australian government’s proposed refugee swap with Malaysia, has confirmed that a draft agreement between Australia and Malaysia has been struck. Sources close to the negotiations said there had been considerable progress on some of the key sticking points, such as work rights for asylum-seekers sent to Malaysia, and the issuing of local identity documents to protect them from arbitrary arrest. Once the text is finalized, it will need to be approved by the UNHCR, who has demanded stringent safeguards be put in place to protect asylum-seekers.  [The Australian]

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