HEADLINES: Refugees

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Last Thursday, Australia announced that it would increase its intake of refugees by 45 percent, the largest increase of its kind in over 30 years. The move was largely a reaction to the increasing numbers of refugees arriving on Australia’s shores from Southeast Asian countries after treacherous journeys on substandard boats. In June, “200 Asylum seekers sank near the island – 17 bodies were found and another 70 were feared dead after a three-day search,” thus reigniting the debate over refugee policy within the Australian government.   By revamping their refugee system and allowing greater access to safe and documented immigration, the Australian government hopes to deter these dangerous journeys.  The Prime Minister Julia Gillard was quoted saying, “People who arrive by boat will get no advantage.  It’s not worth the risk to life and it’s not worth the money, because there is absolutely no benefit to getting on that smuggler’s boat.” [BBC]

Syria continues to devolve further and further into crisis, and this week saw another surge in the number of Syrians attempting to cross over into Turkey, prompting Turkey to temporarily close off its borders. There are presently 7,000 Syrians camped on the Syrian side of the border, waiting in fear as the violence continues to escalate; Saturday alone saw 370 killed. Turkey is already home to 80,000 refugees, however, and the limit to the hosting capacity of many countries in the region is getting nearer and nearer, thus intensifying the international debate over a possible international intervention. Jordan’s information minister, Samih al Maaytah, said “the number of refugees is growing, and our limited resources are thinning.  The international community should come to the aid of the Syrian refugees.”  Meanwhile, all the refugees stranded in Syria can do is wait. [Washington Post]

Despite the fact that Myanmar is very much still embroiled in a civil war, Chinese officials have started forcibly repatriating thousands of ethnically Kachin refugees back into their native country. Human Rights Watch estimated that China will have expelled 5000 Kachin refugees, a Christian minority in their native Burma, despite the increasingly dangerous environment. Ryan Roco, a human rights researcher, decried the new Chinese policy. “The actions of the Chinese against vulnerable Kachin demonstrate a wanton disregard for human dignity and international humanitarian law.”  China has not taken an official position on the Kachin conflict. Kachin State is rich in jade, timber, mineral wealth and water resources, all coveted by the Chinese. Several large Chinese dam projects are in the region, including the Myitsone Dam, which aroused local protests. [NYTimes]

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