HEADLINES: Refugees

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The Mujahedeen-e-Khalq continue to be one of the world’s most controversial refugee populations, as they, “reluctantly left their decades-old home in northeast Iraq on Sunday and moved to a refugee camp outside Baghdad, taking what officials say is a necessary step towards resettling them in other nations.”  The MEK is a dissident group that carried out a series of assassinations and bombings against the current Iranian regime, although they have claimed nonviolence since 2001.  They were originally given refuge in Iraq under the government of Saddam Hussein, but have since been labeled as a terrorist organization by both Iraq and the United States.  The US had long said that it will not take the group of its foreign terror organization list unless it left its home in northern Iraq, and must decide in the next 2 weeks if it will reconsider the terrorist label.  The end goal of the move, however, is to resettle the Iranian refugees in third-party countries.  Top U.N envoy in Iraq, Martin Kobler, said, “this is an important step as we near the end of the relocation process.  I urge the international community to speed up its efforts to accept residents in third countries.”  Over 4,000 refugees need to be resettled, and it is yet to be determined which countries will accept them.  [Washpost]

The Syrian refugee crisis has accelerated at an extraordinary pace over the past few months.  More than five times as many refugees fled Syria in August than in June, provoking deep fear in Syria’s neighboring countries who are struggling to keep up with the need.  The situation within the borders of Syria, however, is only getting worse.   In fact, the “World Health Organization said that a United Nations mission to Homs last week found more than half a million people needed aid, including health care, food, and water.  The mission found that the biggest hospital in Homs had been destroyed and only 14 of 44 hospitals were still functional, although with severely reduced capacity.”  Thus, it is no wonder that the refugee crisis is only continuing to escalate.  The World Health Organization is currently trying to address to critical gaps in Syria’s medical personnel and infrastructure. [Nytimes]

Asylum policy continues to be a controversial topic in Australia, as the country revived its  “‘Pacific Solution’ refugee policy on Friday, sending the first group of asylum seekers to immigration detention in a makeshift tent city on the remote tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru.”  Thus, asylum seekers will be processed outside of the country, and are not guaranteed  resettlement in Australia even if they are granted asylee status.  Many are skeptical of these offshore detention centers, and “Australia’s Human Rights Commission said it had serious concerns that asylum seeker rights might not be protected in Nauru.”  Immigration continues to be a hot button issue for the current administration, as several high profile boat capsizings off the coasts of Australia and neighboring Indonesia this summer provoked both sides to criticize Julia Gillard and her policies.  30 Sri Lankan asylum seekers will have their cases processed at the center beginning this week.  [ChicagoTrib]

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