HEADLINES: Refugees

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As the refugee crisis in Syria continues to spiral out of control, relations between the United States and Turkey, once strong allies, have begun to fray.  Turkey, along with the other regional countries heavily burdened with Syrian refugees, has repeatedly called on the international community to intervene, but the United States and the rest of the UN has been hesitant at best.   This past Thursday, after Syria shelled several Turkish areas, Turkey “announced that it has authorized military operations in Syria.”   The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has also criticized Obama for not taking the crisis seriously enough, as heightened PKK attacks and unrest in border regions are hindering his own re-election efforts.  Though this wedge represents a serious issue, it is “not likely to rupture the Obama-Erdogan relationship.  Turkey relies on the United States too much to sacrifice its relationship lightly.  Turkey is increasingly wary of Iran’s regional ambitions.”  As the refugee crisis reaches historic proportions, however, it is only a matter of time before conflict emerges between the two friends. [Washpost]

The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya is one of the largest in the world, home to nearly 453,000 Somali refugees.  Conditions have historically been lacking in basic needs, but over the past year, thanks largely to Lutheran World Federation, one school in the camp, Hilal Primary School, has overgone a dramatic change.  Today, “there are four times as many buildings on the site,” and every child has his or her own textbook.  The school has a new playground that “is open to the students all day and as the compound is fenced and guarded, the children have a safe haven after classes end for the day.  Children can be especially vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse in Dadaab and safe spaces like the school playground keep them out of harm’s way.”  LWF administers six schools in the camp, employing over 500 teachers.  This access to education and safety has made a huge impact in the lives of these children, though many thousands of children living in Dadaab still do not have the opportunity to go to school. [ENLnews]

In Rwanda, a group of Congolese refugees have petitioned the United Nations Secretary General to step up and create “conditions for dialogue between the warring parties in Democratic Republic of Congo to speed up their repatriation.”  There are an estimated 60,000 Congolese refugees living in the country of Rwanda, and they are lacking many basic human needs in their camps.  In fact, “they are facing major challenges such as the suspension of studies for their children, malnutrition-related diseases affecting mostly children and old people, lack of certain basic needs such as drinking water and firewood, medical services.”  The group of refugees claims that international intervention in the DRC is vital to addressing the never-ending wars plaguing the country so that the hundreds of thousands of Congolese refugees can finally return to their homeland. [Allafrica]

As this year is set to see the most refugees of any before, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gutteres called at the organization’s annual meeting “for international solidarity and support as UNHCR responds to a proliferation of new emergencies.”  Gutteres reminded the body of the UNHCR’s tough role as the responder to this sharp influx in new crises, while still having responsibility for those displaced for longer periods of time.  He also called attention to the stark need for countries, both near to and far from crisis, to continue to welcome refugees and keep their borders open.  He asked for generosity, as “we (UNHCR) have been able so far to respond to all emergencies, but this dramatic combination of new crises and the chronic ones that do not end, creates enormous pressure on our resources and we badly need international solidarity.”  Meanwhile, it is unlikely that any of the current refugee crises will be ending in the near future.  [UNHCR]

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