HEADLINES: Refugees

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Intensifying clashes between ethnic rebels and Myanmar’s army have forced tens of thousands of villagers into refugee camps near the Chinese border, according to aid workers and members of the clergy. Efforts by the Myanmar government to restart talks with leaders of the Kachin ethnic group appear to have failed, leading to a crisis that is developing just as the government is trying to introduce economic and political reforms. A government representative met with leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization shortly before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Myanmar last week, but the talks were inconclusive. More than 26,000 people have now been displaced by the conflict. A Roman Catholic priest returning from the affected area on Tuesday said that some priests and nuns and clergymen were trapped by the clashes, which he said involved heavy weapons. [New York Times]

More than 550 Ivory Coast refugees who have been residing in camps in Liberia are being processed at a Liberian border town for repatriation into their homeland. The 555 refugees, some who have lived in Liberia for more than a year, spent Tuesday night in tents at a U.N. refugee agency center. Some 22 buses from Ivory Coast will start taking them home Wednesday. Many Ivory Coast residents fled across the border to countries including Liberia during a monthslong political crisis that left thousands dead following presidential elections in November 2010. There are still over 130,000 Ivorian refugees still in Liberia. [Associated Press]

Ethiopia has opened a new camp for Somali refugees in hopes of relieving the overcrowded conditions at the Dollo Ado camp. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says the new camp, Bur Amino, is the fifth one in the region. The first relocation of 384 people took place on November 30th. Another group of about 500 was to moved Monday, December 5th, followed by yet another on Thursday, December 8th. The number of Somali refugees moving into Dollo Ado has dropped significantly in the past two to three weeks. However, the reason for the recent decrease in the number of refugees is hard to determine. The UNHCR plans to house 60,000 refugees at the Bur Amino camp. [Voice of America]

Thousands of Syrian refugees in Turkey live in fear, alleging that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is using spies and dirty tricks to repatriate critics and army deserters. Ever since the embattled Assad sent in tanks and troops to a frontier Syrian villages six months ago to quash an uprising against his rule, tens of thousands have fled across the border to Turkey. Tensions sparked by the influx have heightened with some refugees alleging that Assad’s informers have tentacles in the Turkish government and the local administration and are using these links to force the return of critics. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Assad, his one-time ally, to step down, and Ankara has announced a ban on transactions with Damascus and its central bank as well a freeze on Syrian government assets in Turkey. [The Daily Star]

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