HEADLINES: Refugees

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2012 is set to see the most refugees of any year in modern record, immigration reform will be a hot button issue in Washington this congressional session, and instances of human trafficking are growing across the United States in communities from sprawling suburbs to urban centers to rural farming villages.

That is why I am committed to providing you with the most important and up-to-date news through our HEADLINES series.  Visit every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to catch up on updates on Refugees, Immigration, and Trafficking-related issues from across the globe.

Thank you for your dedication to educating yourself and others on the importance migrants and refugees play in America and throughout the world.  We hope this segment inspires you to go out and be an advocate for the rights of migrants, refugees, and trafficking victims everywhere!

This week, while record numbers of refugees continue to pour out of Syria into every country in the region, Obama has still refused to recognize the opposition as a “government in exile,” and has not yet caved to increasing international pressure to begin providing arms to the rebel militias. While there have been cries for action from in the United States and throughout the world, Obama remains cautious.  Obama said this week, “we have seen extremist elements insinuate into the opposition and one of the things that we have to be on guard about, particularly when we start talking about arming opposition figures, is that we are not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks that would do Americans harm, or do Israel harm or otherwise engage in actions that would be detrimental to our national security.”  France recognized the opposition as sovereign last Tuesday. [LATimes]

While Obama is headed to Burma this week in a showing of support for the small steps of progress the country has taken towards democracy, the nation remains a country in turmoil.  Conflicts between the government and minority groups have left hundreds of thousands displaced internally or in refugee camps in Thailand, Bangladesh, and other countries.  Suzanne Nossel, the U.S-based director of Amnesty International, said that “if President Obama doesn’t put his full support behind further urgent reforms in Myanmar, this trip risks being an ill-timed presidential pat on the back for a regime that has looked the other way as violence rages, destroying villages and communities just in the past few weeks.”  Since the recent collapse of a 17-year old truce with the ethnic Kachin rebels in the country’s northern region, more than 75,000 people have been displaced.  Another 110,000 have been displaced in the country’s Western region in a conflict between the Muslim Rohingya and the Buddhist Rakhine. [Washington Post]

With winter rapidly approaching, international aid organizations and activists are now gravely worried over the fate of the more than 200,000 children who are at risk of illness or death.  As temperatures drop below freezing in some areas, international charity Save the Children says that “many are living without proper shelter and clothing and may not survive the harsh conditions.”  In many parts of the Middle East, torrential rains and sub-zero temperatures are a regular occurrence during the winter months.  The U.N. expects the number of Syrian refugees to reach 700,000 by the end of the year. [BBC]

In the wake of this month’s hunger strikes in Nauru detention camps and growing international disapproval, Amnesty International is calling for Australia’s prompt processing of asylum seekers and a reconsideration of their asylum policies.  This year, Australia renewed its policy of processing asylum cases remotely in the island nations of Nauru and Papua New Guinea.  The program is meant to discourage boat arrivals, but “conditions were tougher than in mainland detention centres and responsible for a ‘terrible spiral’ of self-harm, hunger strikes, and suicide attempts.”  A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said, “Conditions may not be pleasant, but they are the same conditions immigration staff and service providers are living under.  It is not unusual for processing to take several months to begin.”  Two detainees have been hospitalized after prolonged hunger strikes.  [Canberra Times]

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