HEADLINES: Refugees

More than 350,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes in three states in Sudan and South Sudan, according to the UNHCR. In Sudan’s Blue Nile and South Kordofan, 100,000 people each have been forced out of their homes. Jonglei, in South Sudan, remains the worst affected, with inter-tribal violence having driven 150,000 from their homes. UNHCR says that the issues facing the three states are ultimately political ones – about borders, oil, and citizenship status after the formation of South Sudan last summer. [Aljazeera]

The United States has nearly halted the processing of visas for Iraqi refugees in Syria, leaving thousands of people who fled a war in their homeland marooned in a country in the grip of an increasingly violent insurrection, with little hope of leaving anytime soon. The American government has indefinitely postponed sending officials from the Department of Homeland Security to Damascus, the Syrian capital, to conduct required interviews with refugees, judging the security situation there too volatile even though the Syrian government has made entry visas available. Others, including Canada, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have continued to administer cases in Syria. The United States has also declined to take up makeshift measures suggested by refugee advocates, including conducting the interviews by video conference. An estimated 10,000 Iraqis in Syria are awaiting interviews. [NYTimes]

In an effort to maintain operations despite prevailing insecurity and reduced humanitarian access at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camps, UNHCR has been exploring ways to ensure uninterrupted assistance and services in the world’s largest refugee settlement. The new measures include stronger and deeper involvement of the refugee communities in the day-to-day running of the camps, by reaching out to different groups within the refugee population, such as elders, the business community, and youth. Complementing this, UNHCR is organizing additional training, mentoring and capacity building for refugee workers and volunteers. Dadaab refugee complex presently shelters more than 460,000 refugees. A third of this refugee population arrived in 2011 alone, fleeing the conflict, drought, famine and human rights abuses in Somalia. [UNHCR]

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