HEADLINES: Refugees

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South Korea’s parliament has passed a resolution demanding that China stops the repatriation of North Korean refugees. The move follows a string of protests over the fate of some 30 North Koreans who are reportedly facing deportation from China and harsh repercussions. They also called on the United Nations and other bodies to put pressure on Beijing to follow international law. It is estimated that more than 20,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since the 1950s. The majority of them escape via China. Reports from inside North Korea say the country’s new leader has issued a decree pledging to exterminate the families of anyone caught trying to flee. [BBC]

More than 100,000 people in Darfur have left the sprawling camps where they had taken refuge for nearly a decade and headed home to their villages over the past year. This is the biggest return of displaced people since the war began in 2003 and a sign that one of the world’s most infamous conflicts may have decisively cooled. The most obvious reason for the return is that Sudan recently made peace with Chad, securing a border that used to be crawling with proxy forces and militiamen toting bazookas. Western aid groups are now trying to capitalize on this, partially shifting away from emergency aid and increasing funds for what they call “recovery,” providing brave pioneers with all the essentials they need to go home and stay home, like seeds, wells, plows and workshops to make plows. [NYTimes]

Thousands have fled to Niger to escape the renewed conflict between Tuareg rebels and the Mali authorities that broke out on 17 January, sparking a growing humanitarian crisis. According to aid agencies mounting an emergency response in Niger, urgent assistance is required with food, water and shelter. That message was reinforced on Thursday when the UN high commission for refugees (UNHCR) issued an appeal for $35.6m, aimed at covering the needs of 85,000 uprooted people until July 2012. An estimated 23,000 people have crossed over the border from Mali into northern Niger, and are camped out at sites such as Mangaize, Ayorou and Sinegodar. The Nigerien government has already distributed some food and clothes, and many of the refugees are staying with families in the host communities. [The Guardian]

Uganda is to set up a new camp to cope with an influx of refugees from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the government has said. At least 100 people a day are now crossing the border to escape an upsurge in violence. Several rebel groups still operate in eastern DR Congo, which is rich in minerals, despite the end of the five-year civil war in 2003. Some of the refugees, who had fled from areas around the towns of Goma, Masisi and Rutshuru, said the armed men questioned them about how they had voted in last year’s contested polls. The elections, the first Congolese-organized polls since the end of the war, were won by incumbent President Joseph Kabila, but rejected by veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. [BBC]

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