HEADLINES: Refugees

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Violence continues to worsen in Myanmar, as “an apparent campaign of ethnic cleansing is being carried out against the Muslim minority group known as the Rohingya – with little response or outcry from Aung San Suu Kyi or other human rights and pro-democracy activists in the country.” This has left tens of thousands of Rohingya without homes, as they flee the violence and are pushed into makeshift refugee camps.  The Rohingya are widely despised and discredited by the Buddhist majority. In the words of Maung Zarni, one Burmese activist, they are victims of the “popular ‘Buddhist’ racist nationalism.” The Rohingya are “deeply impoverished and effectively stateless, and are viewed by the majority as unwelcome immigrants who have crossed over illegally from neighboring Bangladesh.”  As the number of refugees from the crisis swells, the nationalist government’s policies continue to be relatively popular with the general populace.  [NYTimes]

As the situation in Syria continues to devolve, former Iraqi refugees are finding themselves between a rock and a hard place. Five or so years ago, when the sectarian violence in Iraq was at its worst, many Iraqis left their country for what they thought would be a safe haven in Syria. Now, a reverse migration has taken hold, as tens of thousands of Syrians have crossed over into still-troubled Iraq seeking refuge. Thus, less than ten years after they fled for their lives, Iraqi refugees are fleeing back into their homeland. Iraq, while better than before, is still plagued with violence. [BBC]

The asylum seeking process is often murky, but one Texan lawyer, Carlos Spector, is seeking to broaden the definition to further include the experiences of those fleeing drug violence in Mexico. While this has been highly contentious, even being labeled as backdoor amnesty by some, the harrowing stories of these asylees have provoked the beginnings of a reconsideration of their plight. Over the past five years, asylum applications from Mexicans have almost tripled, and more have begun to be accepted. The vast majority, more than 90 percent, however, are not granted safety and are still in limbo or are forced to return to Mexico and face probable violence and persecution.  [LATimes]

In a new oral history project by UC-Irvine, the stories of Vietnamese former refugees who came to America in the wake of the Vietnam War are now being collected before they are lost forever. The project will include the collection of over 300 stories “in an effort to create a digitized history of the Vietnamese- American experience and bridge the generation gap between refugees and their American-born children who are helping conduct the interviews, said Thuy Vo Dang, the project’s director.”  Over 1.9 million Vietnamese live in the United States, making them the fourth largest Asian-American population in the country.  [Washington Post]

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