HEADLINES: Refugees

President Barack Obama authorized as much as $26 million to help provide humanitarian assistance to 140,000 refugees who have fled parts of Sudan’s southern states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. The U.S. money will come from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund and will support the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, according to an e-mailed statement from National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor. The aid is in response “to the unexpected and urgent needs resulting from the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states of Sudan,” Vietor said. Fighting between Sudanese government forces and the rebels has intensified in the two border states since South Sudan seceded in July, assuming control of three-quarters of the former unified nation’s oil production of 490,000 barrels a day. The U.S. is “gravely concerned” about the situation in the two states and continues to call upon Sudan and South Sudan to reach a “negotiated settlement to the outstanding issues between them,” Vietor said. [Bloomberg]

Over 8,000 displaced Syrians have streamed into north Lebanon since the beginning of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brutal crackdown of Sunni rebels. While the violence in Syria continues unabated, Syrian refugees who managed to escape Assad’s forces paint a gruesome picture of abuses and killing of civilians and military-aged men that some have compared to Srebrenica. What is surprising, however, is that despite the rapid influx of Syrians into northern Lebanon –more than 3,000 last month alone — there are no major refugee camps in northern Lebanon. Instead, displaced Syrians are being “absorbed” into predominantly Sunni northern Lebanese villages.  According to the UNHCR, the majority of the refugees reside with “host families” rather than in camps — a welcome development, since refugee camps are often characterized by overcrowding and permanent slum-like conditions. [Huffington Post]

The United Nations refugee agency voiced deep concern about the deteriorating political and security situation in Mali, where thousands of people continue to flee their homes due to fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels in the country’s north. “The north of the country is becoming more and more dangerous due to the proliferation of armed groups in the region,” a spokesperson for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming, told reporters in Geneva. Renewed fighting in northern Mali has uprooted more than 200,000 people since January, with the majority seeking safety in neighboring countries and some 93,000 believed to be internally displaced. The country is also dealing with a coup by rebel Malian soldiers who took control of the country some 10 days ago and announced the dissolution of the Government led by President Amadou Toumani Toure. Ms. Fleming reported that more than 2,000 people have fled to Burkina Faso and Mauritania over the past five days because of the insecurity and the political instability stemming from the military coup. The majority of the refugees are Tuaregs, but there are also ethnic Peuls, Arabs and Bambara. Refugees pouring into neighboring countries are reporting the presence of armed militiamen and home guards units set up by local communities to defend themselves, she said. [UN News Centre]

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