HEADLINES: Refugees

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Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro raised some $395 million at an international donors conference to help house 74,000 people who have been living as refugees for over two decades. The countries sought to raise $660 million to help those who have fled their homes during the 1990’s wars in the former Yugoslavia resettle in their new communities or return to their original homes. Some three million people were displaced during those wars, making it the biggest displacement in Europe after World War II. Most of those returned home or found alternative arrangements. The deal envisages that within five years all refugee camps in these four countries would closed and those living in them would get new homes. Antonio Guterres, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, praised the political will of the countries for trying to solve one of the remaining legacies of their bitter conflicts. [Associated Press]

Tens of thousands of Malian refugees in Burkina Faso are getting too little aid, too slowly as needs outstrip resources, medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has said. More than 46,000 Malians have crossed into neighboring Burkina Faso since fighting erupted in mid-January between Malian forces and separatists from the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), who have declared an independent state in northern Mali. The refugees have been living in dire conditions for weeks in makeshift shelters with little water and food due to an inadequate response by aid agencies. The influx of refugees into the largely arid, drought-stricken Oudalan province is increasing pressure on communities that were already experiencing food and water shortages. UNCHR launched an appeal for $35.6 million in February to assist Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania. But the response from donors has been slow, with just $12.6 million pledged so far. [Reuters]

Thousands of people are streaming into refugee camps in Pakistan after fighting sparked an exodus of refugees near the country’s border with Afghanistan. Pakistan’s army recently stepped up its long-running fight against the Lashkar-e-Islam militia group in the North West Frontier just outside the city of Peshawar. Around 200,000 people left their homes because of the violence. John Ging, operations director of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said the unexpected numbers were testing sanitation and food distribution. [BBC]

Nearly three dozen Kurdish families have fled their homes to Sadiyah, a small town in northeastern Iraq claimed by the government in Baghdad but patrolled by Kurdish forces. Other Kurds from the area have arrived after being pushed out over property disputes that can be traced to Saddam Hussein’s policy in the 1970s of expelling Kurds and resettling Arabs. Whether by terrorism or judicial order, the continuing displacement of Iraq’s Kurdish minority lays bare the unfinished business of reconciliation in the wake of the American military’s withdrawal, and it is a symptom of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the semi-autonomous Kurdish government based in Erbil and the central government in Baghdad. The schism, which is most immediately over sharing oil wealth but is more deeply about historical grievances and Kurdish aspirations for independence, raises serious questions about the future of a unified Iraq. [NYTimes]

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