HEADLINES: Refugees

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Thousands of refugees from fighting in remote northern Myanmar have flooded into makeshift tent cities erected on the other side of the long border with China, creating a humanitarian crisis and a complex diplomatic dilemma for Beijing. Up to 10,000 refugees have fled to an area in southwestern Yunnan province, driven by fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the country’s most powerful rebel groups. Many of the refugees are women, children and elderly people. Fighting erupted after a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down last June, sending ethnic Kachins fleeing to the border area. The conflict could jeopardize the former Burma’s efforts to convince the European Union and the United States to lift wide-ranging sanctions against the country, which is slowing efforts to open up and democratize after decades of army rule. The Chinese government tolerates the camps, but does not officially recognize their existence. [Reuters]

The thousands who fled the ongoing Tuareg rebellion in Mali to seek refuge in western Niger are suffering from a severe food and water shortage, local officials and aid providers say. “We must fear a humanitarian catastrophe, if nothing is done,” Boureima Issaka of the Niger-based aid group Timidria said in Chinegodar, a small village that has seen an influx of some 6,000 refugees in less than a month. They have sought shelter from a conflict in Mali between government troops and armed rebels that has caused dozens of casualties on either side. The combat began on January 17, when the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) launched an attack in northern Mali — the largest offensive by Tuareg rebels since 2009 — sparking clashes with the army. Children are among those suffering from malnutrition and dehydration in the refugee camp. According to officials and aid groups, about 10,000 people fleeing the Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali and reprisal attacks in Bamako have crossed into Niger, more than 4,500 into Mauritania and 1,500 into Burkina Faso. [AFP]

Around 7,000 Syrians live in refugee camps along the Turkish-Syrian border. They fled to Turkey when the Assad regime quashed anti-government protests in the northern mountains last June, and have stayed put ever since. But in the wake of this weekend’s UN vote, many young men say they want to go back and fight. Marine Olivesi reports. For the full audio story, visit [PRI The World]

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