HEADLINES: Refugees

In response to the growing violence in Burma’s western region, the government has quietly started enacting a census of the controversial Rohingya.  The Rohingya, a Muslim minority originally emigrating from neighboring Bangladesh, have continually been the victims of mass nationalistic “anti-immigrant” fervor, as “nearly 200 people have died in the last five months, and 110,000 more, mostly Muslims, have fled.”  Some advocacy organizations, such as the Thai Arakan Project, are worried that the results from this audit could be used to further anti-Rohingya sentiment.  The Rohingya, due to a 1982 citizenship law, are effectively stateless.  There are approximately 800,000 Rohingya living within Burmese borders.  [Washington Post]

RefugeeOne, a resettlement agency and LIRS affiliate, is working hard to provide the support and resources needed to allow refugees the opportunity to flourish and become self-sufficient.  The agency offers a wide variety of necessary services, ranging from mental health to English classes, but one of the most important services the agency provides is job training.  Due to limited funding, refugees typically have six months to reach self-sufficiency, but landing a job in this economy has proven tough.  “Ninety-nine percent of our clients are coming to work hard and start a new life”, said Executive Director Melineh Kano, “All they want is the opportunity to do so.  And what’s missing now is the opportunity.”  [ChicagoTribune]

For years, the Somali capital of Mogadishu has been marred with violence and anarchy, but in some parts of the city, housing prices are booming, as “well-maintained homes, hotels, and shopping plazas” are quickly springing up.  After over a year of relative peace the city’s economy is finally starting to recover, but not everyone is able to share in the growth.  The two decades worth of war and anarchy has left many as squatters or in urban slums, but now, “eager to cash in, landowners are forcing out thousands of squatters and other families who can’t afford the higher prices, leaving them no recourse but to move to camps for displaced people on the edge of Mogadishu where there are no services or security.  The government earlier this year also forces out thousands of people living in government-owned buildings.”  Rape and other violence is common in these makeshift camps, as there is little safety and few resources.  The government, however, is in a very delicate phase, and is still fighting for recognition and power within the city and the rest of the state, and has not made this issue a priority.  When asked about the housing crisis, one refugee mother said, “Mogadishu is going to be for the rich.  And for the poor and refugees, the awful bush.” [Washpost]

Iranian arms shipments to the Bashar al-Assad’s National Syrian army have continued despite American efforts to stem them due to Iraq’s reluctance to search suspected aircrafts flying through their airspace.  This has been critical to Assad’s war efforts, as the rebels have increased their military pressure, further intensifying the conflict and the surmounting refugee crisis.  Iran has much at stake with the Syrian conflict, as Syria is Iran’s staunchest ally in a region where it has few friends and many foes.  The Iraqi foreign minister has promised US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that it would inspect flights from Iran, but so far have only two planes have been searched.    Meanwhile, the number of Syrian refugees has surpassed 400,000 and continues to rise.  [Nytimes]

The Israel-Palestine conflict is as heated as ever, as the U.N. General Assembly granted Palestine limited statehood and Israel swiftly authorized hundreds of new settlements.  Palestinian refugees have not only faced persecution in Israel, however, but are in fact living as refugees in several Arab countries in squalid conditions with little to no rights.  Over 300,000 Palestinians are living in Lebanon in “what Human Rights Watch calls appalling social and economic conditions.  They are blocked from working in a variety of conditions, and the Lebanese government has largely resisted granting them broader property rights.”  Palestinian refugees have also faced great persecution and even violence in Egypt and Iraq, where refugees claim that “they have been denied medical care and have had to use fake ID’s to receive treatment.”   The current instability in the region is only likely to increase the number of Palestinian refugees.  [Washington Post]

 

 

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Comments

  1. Erika Berg says:

    I greatly appreciate Melineh Kano’s outspokenness around the Rohingya issue. Ominous images of blatant persecution are flowing out of Burma’s western Rakhine state. How can LIRS help the stateless? http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151235372858153&set=a.10151235372753153.472003.732278152&type=1&theater

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