HEADLINES: Refugees

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The UNHCR has launched a massive airlift of relief supplies from Kenya to neighboring South Sudan where an estimated 50,000 Sudanese refugees are in need of assistance after fleeing conflict in their country. The first of 18 flights using C-130 Hercules transport planes left the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, carrying 12 tons of supplies, including plastic sheets and rolls, sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets, buckets, jerry cans and kitchen sets, according to the UNHCR. [UN News Centre]
According to Amnesty International, the United Nations must accelerate efforts to help more than 100,000 people return to their homes in Abyei, a region claimed by Sudan and South Sudan. A 4,200-member United Nations mission hasn’t fully deployed in Abyei since the Security Council approved it on June 27. Sudan agreed to withdraw its soldiers from the area once the full UN contingent arrived and an interim administration is in place. Sudan’s army seized the main town in Abyei on May 21 after accusing the south’s army of attacking its troops. Abyei is one of several disputes threatening to spark conflict between Sudan and its newly independent southern neighbor. Fighting between President Umar al-Bashir’s government in Khartoum and rebels it says South Sudan backs has intensified in border states since the south seceded on July 9. [Bloomburg Business Week]
According to a UNHCR statement, aid distributions have been temporarily suspended at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex, near the border with Somalia, following a series of bomb attacks. Monday’s explosion went off close to a food distribution point as rations were being given out. Refugees said the police have been harassing them as they sought information about the perpetrators of the attacks. Dadaab has witnessed a series of attacks in recent months, leading humanitarian agencies to evacuate staff. Medecins Sans Frontieres-Spain pulled out of the camp following the kidnapping of two of its staff from the camp in October. [Reuters]
Myanmar will take back some of its refugees from neighbouring Bangladesh, an official said Tuesday, adding that hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingyas will not be covered by the deal. The agreement to repatriate Myanmar refugees was reached at a meeting earlier this month between President Thein Sein and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities on earth, the Rohingya have no legal right to own land in Myanmar and are banned from marrying or travelling without permission. Some 28,000 Rohingya are recognised as registered refugees and live and receive aid at an official UN camp in Bangladesh. This figure is a fraction of the 200,000 to 300,000 unofficial refugees, according to government estimates. [AFP]

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