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More Iraqi refugees returned to their homeland in 2011 than any year since 2004, UN figures showed on Tuesday, with the largest number coming from Syria, which has been rocked by months of protests. According to data published by the UNHCR, 62,340 people returned to Iraq between December 2010 and November 2011. That compared to a total of 460,106 who came back from 2003 — when a US-led coalition ousted dictator Saddam Hussein — to 2010. The figure of annual returns in 2011 was the highest for a single year since 2004’s 193,997. [AFP]

The UNHCR warns of growing insecurity in camps sheltering hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa.  The UNHCR says the situation is particularly worrisome in Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex, the largest refugee settlement in the world. Nearly one-half million refugees, most of them Somalis, are living in Dadaab. It says the camp’s inhabitants have been under threat from improvised explosive devices, kidnappings, vehicle hijackings and banditry over the past few months. [Voice of America]

The UNHCR reports that 33 unaccompanied children, mostly from East Africa, have left Tunisia’s Shousha refugee camp for resettlement in Norway. The children are among 90 who arrived unaccompanied from Libya during the conflict in 2011. UNHCR says some of the children were already without their parents when they arrived in Libya. Others lost their parents or became separated from them at a later stage. Most of the children are from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, or Eritrea. The agency says the 33 unaccompanied children who left Tunisia for Norway on Sunday is the largest group, so far, to be resettled. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said prospects for finding countries of resettlement for 51 other unaccompanied children in Tunisia’s Shousha refugee camp are good. [Voice of America]

The United States and Sudan traded accusations over the humanitarian situation in the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, embattled since the north and south of Sudan split into two nations last summer. About 500,000 displaced people face famine if substantial international aid does not begin to flow by March, said Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador, calling an aid blockade imposed by Sudan “unconscionable and unacceptable.” Sudan’s United Nations envoy, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, said the situation for most civilians in the area was “fantastic,” denying any blockade except in “pockets” where rebels took shelter. [NYTimes]

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