HEADLINES: Refugees

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The Islamist takeover of northern Mali has become stricter and more violent as the radical group strengthens its grip over conquered areas.  Using weaponry left from the fall of Qaddafi last year, the Malian rebels took hold of northern Mali earlier this year and have imposed radical sharia law, echoing the experience of Afghanistan under the Taliban, and driving scores of refugees out of the north fleeing the violence and oppression.  In fact, “the refugees say the Islamists are raping and forcibly marrying women, and recruiting children for armed conflict” and violence against women has become prevalent. Today, more than half the population of the regional capital Timbuktu has fled.  Many now live in the Malian capital of Bamako with almost nothing and little hope of returning to their homes in the near future.  [Washington Post]

As the battle between the Syrian government and the rebel forces continued last Sunday, the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp was targeted for the first time, as at least eight were killed by Syrian rockets. The camp is a “densely populated urban zone that is home to tens of thousands, both Palestinians and non-Palestinians.” The camp, and the greater Palestinian population in Syria, has been divided in loyalty during the conflict, but this week’s attacks came after more than 1,550 rebel fighters had breached the camp’s confines. Over “the last few weeks, Assad’s forces have been using air power and artillery to pummel rebels in the approaches to Damascus, seeking to thwart any opposition advance into the capital.”  Authorities predict the number of Syrian refugees will reach 700,000 by the end of the year, including many already living as refugees in Syria. [LATimes]

After enduring months of grenade and other explosive device attacks, Kenya announced new, more stringent controls aimed primarily at Somali refugees inside its borders. Under the new policy, all Somali refugees and asylum seekers must return to the Dadaab refugee camp, the largest in the world with more than 400,000 people living within its borders.  After Kenya sent its military into Somalia last year, the “country has seen small scale attacks on churches, bars, and at public transportation stops.”  The new policy is seeking to stem this violence, but some, such as Kenyan legislator Aden Sugow, argue that “the government is saying refugees should be put into concentration camps.” The Kenyan government has expressed hope the Somalia’s improving security situation will allow for the safe repatriation of its Somali population, but Somalia is still far away from lasting stability. [Washington Post]

The international charity Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) has reported more than 800,000 displaced people in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, a sharp increase from earlier estimates. The increase in refugees has stemmed from worsening violence between the Congolese government and M23 rebels. The organization said the refugees lacked shelter and other essential items, and had in some cases fled from one displacement to another over years of fighting. The fighting has died down recently as both sides are in neighboring Uganda for peace talks. [BBC]

 

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