Headlines: Refugees

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Tragedy in the Mediterranean yet again, as desperate refugees risk everything to try and find a way to Europe. From the AFP Rome Bureau:

“We have rescued 48 people alive from the sea while 15 bodies have been spotted by the crew of the helicopter,” coast guard spokesman Vittorio Alessandro, based on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, told AFP.

Around 130 people who were on the boat are believed to be missing.

“We are still hoping. Our boats and helicopters have thrown all sorts of lifejackets and lifeboats to allow people to hold on,” Alessandro said.

Coast guards said in a statement that the boat was 13 meters long and had departed two days ago from the town of Zuwarah in western Libya. The statement said the people on the boat were mostly Eritreans and Somalis.

Meanwhile, as the conflict in Ivory Coast continues, the violence is expected to externally displace a quarter of a million people by June, with close to a million already internally displaced, according to the UNHCR. Many of these refugees will be walking up to five days to reach safety.

So far 80,000 people have fled the fighting, with 25,000 moving into Grand Gedeh the past ten days as fighting moves south. Another 40,000 have fled to camps set up in Nimba county in the north.

Commissioner Antonio Guterres warned in a press conference yesterday that the violent political struggle over the recent election results in Ivory Coast could potentially destabilize all of West Africa. Of particular concern is the situation in Liberia, which after years of violence is finally recovering. This week we have been calling on Congress to approve legislation that would allow for Liberian who have been living in this country for decades to remain here on a permanent basis.

The UNHCR also asked Kenya to allow for more camp space for Somali refugees in the northeast region of Dadaab. Bloomberg reminds us of the extent of this crisis: “Somalia hasn’t had a functioning central administration since the ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.” But as AFP reports, the Kenyan government is concerned that further aiding refugees will lead to violent incursions from the Somali rebels who accuse “Nairobi of supporting Somalia’s transitional federal government, which they are fighting to topple.”

Kenya will, on the other hand, be welcoming home former refugees: One thousand, one hundred and eighty three Kenyan refugees who fled to Uganda at the height of the post-election violence will in a month’s time return home.

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