HEADLINES: Refugees

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Fighting between the Sudanese army and the rebel SPLA-North erupted along the Sudan-South Sudan border last week, driving thousands of Sudanese refugees across the border to the south.   In its efforts to subdue the rebels, the Sudanese army has employed “crude bombs, ” but “the bombs often fall into civilian areas.  After months of bombings, many were unable to plant their crops and took refuge in nearby caves in the Nuba mountains.  Others simply fled south.”  Despite the fact that the rainy season is making travel within the region extremely difficult, “the U.N refugee agency believes there could be an additional 15,000 refugees in the camp by the end of the year.”  Meanwhile, relations between South Sudan and Sudan are continually tense. [Washpost]

Riots erupted this past Monday at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, as Syrian refugees violently protested the poor conditions and lack of basic services in the camp.  Dozens of refugees “clashed with Jordanian police, hurled stones and smashed charity offices and a hospital.”  This was not an isolated incident, as there have been several small protests over the past few weeks, but it was by far the largest and most violent.  Jordan has taken in over 200,000 Syrian refugees over the course of the crisis, and many Jordanians responded to the Syrian protests with protests of their own, demanding the Syrians return home, “denouncing what they described as ‘ingratitude’ by the refugees to their host country”.  The UNHCR is currently looking into the situation, hoping to calm the atmosphere in the camp and stave off any future violence. [Washpost]

During her visit to the United States, Aung San Suu Kyi, famed Burmese political activist, will not only visit with high ranking officials in Washington.  She will also make the trek out to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to meet with the burgeoning local Burmese population there.  Fort Wayne, due to its large Burmese constituency has “become an unlikely base for opposition to the country’s former military regime.”   In 1991, a single Burmese refugee was resettled in Fort Wayne, but over the last 20 years, many thousands have moved there.   The visit by Suu Kyi will have extraordinary meaning to many Burmese residents, as her visit “will be the first tangible connection in years, even decades, with the homeland some hope to return to one day.”  Most have been watching the recent turn of events in Burma carefully, and will be interested to hear Suu Kyi’s opinions on US sanctions of Burma and her plans to be engaged in Burmese politics, as the government there slowly wobbles towards democracy. [Washpost]

Malta, one of the smallest countries in the world, much smaller in both area and population than most major world cities, has found itself at the center of the global refugee crisis.  Because of its unique geographic location in the Mediterranean Sea in between North Africa and Europe, Malta has become the country with the most refugees per square mile in the world.  With a population of only 400,000, and a lack of strong local support for refugee resettlement, Malta has struggled with its ever growing refugee population, and has unfortunately enacted inhumane and lengthy detentions as a part of the nation’s immigration process.   As a member of the EU, however, Malta has agreed to the fact that the burden of refugee resettlement is on the country that is the first point of entry for the refugees.  Malta is far from alone in its predicament as a home to refugees due to geographical chance, though.  In fact, “countries on the fringes of conflict end up with the most refugees, with no guarantee of help.”  That is why some refugee advocates are pushing for a rethinking of resettlement through a new idea called “responsibility sharing.”  By sharing responsibility, “all refugees would be protected – but not necessarily in the countries where they land.  Countries around the globe would divvy up responsibility for the displaced, no matter where they arrive.”   Thus, huge burdens would not lead to substandard conditions and lack of admission into countries near crisis zones.  Powerful and wealthy countries far away from current areas of conflict are showing little interest or willingness to consider the idea, however, despite the fact that it might be in their best interest in the future. [latimes]

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