HEADLINES: Refugees

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According to a United Nations report released this week, the unemployment rate among refugees in the West Bank has continued to grow this year, even though overall levels of joblessness there have fallen. The report, released by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, found that the number of unemployed refugees in the West Bank grew by nearly one per cent in the first half of 2011, to over 50,000 people. This means the rate of unemployment among refugees is now at 27.4 per cent, about five points higher than the wider West Bank rate, which has declined. “These figures show once more that the refugees continue to bear the brunt of economic hardship in the West Bank, making the need for our emergency services greater than ever,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said. [UN News Centre]

Refugee aid and assistance groups say Burmese government reforms have triggered fresh hope among more than 120,000 refugees living in camps along the Thailand-Burma border. Optimism was especially high after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma. Seven camps along the border house the massive refugee community. Tens of thousands work in the border regions or make their way to factories on the outskirts of cities such as Bangkok. However, a spokesperson for Refugees International says there remains some “considerable disconnect” between optimism in Rangoon by civil society and harsh realities along the border region with Thailand. [Voice of America]

For two decades, Somalis fleeing their failed state found in Yemen a safe haven, a place to work, and a gateway to wealthier gulf states. Now, Yemen, itself facing state failure, is far from the ideal refuge. But driven by famine and war in their own country, Somalis in greater numbers than ever are making the perilous journey across the Arabian Sea to this crumbling nation. Those brought by smugglers the 200 or more miles from Somalia to Yemen’s southeastern shore wait for days for a local nongovernmental group to take them to Aden. The trip now takes 12 hours instead of 4, and is frequently postponed. They must detour around the coastline route and the city of Zinjibar, which was taken over by Islamic militants, but clashes break out along the alternate route, too. [New York Times]

Thousands of former supporters of Muammar Gaddafi who fled their town after revenge attacks will try to return next week, their leaders said on Wednesday, risking a confrontation with their neighbors. Tawargha, a town about 250 km east of Tripoli, was ransacked and looted, and its residents forced to flee, in one of the worst cases of reprisals against Gaddafi loyalists since the Libyan leader was overthrown three months ago. [Reuters]

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