HEADLINES: Refugees

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UNHCR has warned that the situation for refugees fleeing Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states had become critical, with more than 200,000 people displaced into neighboring South Sudan and Ethiopia and humanitarian efforts in South Sudan close to breaking point. UNHCR field offices in Ethiopia and South Sudan say 211,700 refugees have so far arrived from Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Some 36,700 of these are in the Assosa region of Ethiopia. In South Sudan, water supply for this population has become acutely problematic, even with a new rainy season having recently begun. UNHCR has appealed to governments and the public to help by donating additional funds for the Sudan refugee crisis. On June 22, the agency announced that its existing contributions had been exhausted and said its needs for Sudanese refugees in South Sudan and Ethiopia stood at US$219 million for 2012. Thus far it has received US$45.9 million. [Reuters AlertNet]

The Office of the UNHCR says that more than 27,000 Syrian refugees are now sheltering in Lebanon after more than a year of conflict in their homeland while Ahmed Moussa, a senior member of the Syrian opposition in Lebanon, puts the number at 60,000. Whatever the true number, living conditions have become increasingly dire for some, especially in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city, where the Syrian opposition estimates that 20,000 refugees now live. The refugee issue is highly politicized: Rifaat Eid, head of the main Alawite political party in Lebanon, the Arab Democratic Party, which is supportive of the Syrian regime, has referred to Tripoli’s refugees as terrorists. Earlier this month, Interior Minister Marwan Charbel blamed a recent rise in crime on the influx of refugees. The Lebanese government has pledged to do what it can to help Syrian refugees, many of whom remain suspicious of state institutions. [NYTimes]

With more than 1000 asylum seekers a month now arriving from Indonesia and Sri Lanka to Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have agreed to a ministerial delegation to try to find a solution to people smuggling. President Yudhoyono also asked Australia to accelerate the release of another 54 child crew members of people smuggler boats. In addition to the ministerial delegation there will also be an information campaign in Indonesian villages to try and prevent youngsters being lured on to asylum boats as crew. Australia will supply technology to Indonesia’s maritime search and rescue services. [Daily Telegraph]

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