04/05/13: The New York Times reports The head of a United Nations refugee agency said Thursday that refugees
from Syria’s war were on the verge of overwhelming the United Nations
and the countries bordering Syria. He predicted that by the end of the year, the flow of refugees will have
swamped the resources of the United Nations and Lebanon and Jordan, two
of the countries that border Syria. He asked to keep Lebanon’s borders open to Palestinians
fleeing the fighting in Syria. So far 36,000
Palestinians already living as refugees in Syria have crossed the border
into Lebanon, mostly cramming into already overcrowded, dilapidated
refugee camps. Lebanon has kept a wary eye on the flow of Palestinians. It was the mass
movement of Palestinians to Lebanon in the 1970s that catalyzed the
Lebanese civil war. Lebanese officials have expressed concern that any Palestinian newcomers
will become part of the permanent refugee population here. According to United Nations estimates, 3.6 million Syrians have been
displaced within the nation’s borders since the uprising began in March
2011. At least 1.3 million more have left the country, mostly seeking
refuge in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. About half a million Syrian
refugees have registered in Lebanon.
03/28/13: The New York Times reports Turkey reversed its plans on Thursday to deport about 130 Syrian refugees involved in a violent protest at a refugee camp, saying that the refugees had agreed to leave voluntarily after being told that they would face prosecution if they stayed. The turnaround came as the United Nations refugee agency expressed “serious concern” about reports of mass deportations and said it was seeking clarification from the Turkish government. Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in Geneva, said in an interview that a forced return of refugees would violate international law and breach legal protections for refugees that prohibit host countries from forcing them out. A local government official in Turkey confirmed that Thursday afternoon, saying, “A deportation is out of question, and we cannot deport them when we do not have the right to do so according to the terms of temporary protection status.” But just a few hours earlier, another local government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with diplomatic protocols, said that nearly 100 Syrians had been identified as provocateurs based on security camera footage taken during the protest.
03/17/13: The Miami Herald reports an Iranian opposition
group Saturday turned down Albania's offer of asylum to 210 of its members who
are living at a former US military base near Baghdad. Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha made the
offer after meeting with US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf,
UN envoy in Iraq Martin Kobler, and other officials. Berisha said the offer of asylum for the
Mujahedeen-e-Khalq members was made for humanitarian reasons. Shahin Gobadi of the National Council of
Resistance of Iran, which oversees the Mujahedeen, said that while they "really
appreciate the [Albanian] government's helping hand," they couldn't accept anoffer of asylum for such a small portion of the group. The UN says more than 3,000 members (nearly
fifteen times Albania's offer) live at the former US base.
03/11/13: CNN reports UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Antonio Guterres said Sunday that the number of Syrian refugees could double – if
not triple – by the end of the year if the crisis continues without change. Since the civil war began two years ago, more
than 1 million have fled the country. The
number of refugees recorded has gone from 3,000 on average each day in December
to 8,000 daily in February, Guterres said.
“Now if this escalation goes on – and nothing happens to solve the problem
– we might have in the end of the year a much larger number of refugees” amounting
to two or three times the present level, he added. Most flee to surrounding countries, such as
Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Egypt, but they are increasingly going to
North Africa and Europe.
03/04/13: The blog Space War reports Turkish Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan ruled out on Sunday a general amnesty for Kurdish rebels
amid renewed peace talks between the country’s secret services and jailed
Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. “We are
not entitled to pardon murderers. We will not interfere in such a thing,”
Erdogan said. Turkey’s spy agency
resumed negotiations with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Ocalan late
last year with an ultimate goal of disarming the rebel movement, which is
branded as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies. Ocalan has been serving a life sentence at
Imrali prison on an island off Istanbul since his capture in Nairobi in 1999. Erdogan says he is determined to settle the
Kurdish conflict and will guarantee safe passage for rebels wishing to leave
02/11/13: The Miami Herald reports soldiers, sailors and
Homeland Security officials came to Guantánamo Bay this weekend to simulate a
humanitarian-relief crisis inspired by the tens of thousands of Haitians and
Cubans who overwhelmed the base in the 1990’s.
The exact nature of the scenario is classified, and only
Pentagon-approved photos of the exercise will be released. That’s because nobody wants news about it to
touch off a real, live Caribbean exodus. The intent, say organizers, is not to
encourage anyone in the Caribbean to get on rafts to reach this Navy base in
southeast Cuba, but to be ready in case it happens. One thing they’ll rehearse is registering 1,000
migrants in a single day, and if history is any guide, the actors should cram
inside the processing tent, desperate, undocumented and disorganized.
02/08/13: The New York Times reports Syria’s conflict is now driving 5,000 people to seek safety in neighboring countries every day, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday, reporting a surge in their numbers in January. The surge brought the numbers this week to 787,000, an increase of more than 50 percent since mid-December, Mr. Edwards said. The numbers now include 260,943 in Lebanon, the first country to exceed a quarter of a million Syrian refugees; 242,649 in Jordan; 177,180 in Turkey; and 84,852 in Iraq. A report released Thursday by the French medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders warned that major gaps had arisen in assistance for refugees in Lebanon and that their profound humanitarian needs were not being met.
01/25/13: The New York Times reports Syrians are fleeing into Jordan in record numbers to escape escalating violence and destruction that is making it increasingly difficult for civilians to survive, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday. More than 4,000 Syrians arrived at a camp in Zaatari in northern Jordan on Thursday and another 2,000 people overnight, the UNHCR said. The influx, consisting mainly of families led by women, brought to more than 30,000 the number of Syrians reaching Zaatari this month, close to double the number who arrived in December. The refugee agency reported it is also working double shifts to try to register Syrians who are living elsewhere in Jordan and expects to have 50,000 on its books by the end of February but it noted that Jordanian authorities say 300,000 Syrians have now entered the country. The number of Syrian refugees in the region is approaching 700,000, the refugee agency said, with 221,000 registered as refugees in Lebanon, 156,000 in Turkey and 76,000 in Iraq.
01/05/13: The New York Times reports under North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, human rights activists and South Korean officials say, it has become increasingly difficult to smuggle refugees out of the country, contributing to a sharp drop in the number of North Koreans reaching South Korea in the past year. The number of refugees has never been particularly large, since most North Koreans are so impoverished they find it all but impossible to raise the money to attempt an escape. But the tightening of controls at the Chinese border led to a fall of about 44 percent from the previous year in the number of refugees reaching South Korea in 2012. The total was 1,509, according to South Korean government data.
12/11/12: The BBC reports more than half a million people have now fled the conflict in Syria to neighbouring countries, according to the UN's refugee agency. The UNHCR says it has accounted for 509,559 refugees so far, primarily in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and that many more are yet to come forward. More than 2m people are also thought to be internally displaced within Syria.