Refugee group points to new Mali crisis, N Koreans held by China

$35.6 million needed for 85,000 refugees fleeing Mali fighting

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Fighting that flared up in northern Mali 17 January continues and is causing an exodus of refugees, the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) said Friday 24 February in an appeal for funds. It is seeking $36.5 million to cover emergency expenses to July 2012 for the need of 85,000 uprooted people.

“An estimated 130,000 people have been uprooted within and outside Mali since the resumption of clashes between the Malian army and Tuareg rebels of the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA)–breaking the 2009 peace deal that had formally ended the Tuareg rebellion in Mali,” the UNHCR says. “In the surrounding countries, the largest influx has so far been recorded in Niger with 28,858 arrivals. In Mauritania, 22,958 Malian refugees have been registered so far.  Another 17,499 Malian refugees have found refuge in Burkina Faso.  More daily arrivals are being recorded in the neighboring countries as attacks continue throughout northern Mali, where an estimated 60,000 Malians are also internally displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance.

The funds will be used by the Geneva-based organization “to provide emergency assistance to the displaced in Mali and neighboring countries. The UNHCR is to establish camps further away from the Mali border in all three countries to allow refugees to receive help in safer locations.”

UNHCR seeks solution for small group of N Koreans

The UNHCR also announced Friday that it is in contact with Chinese authorities concerning a group of 25 N Koreans who have been held in China since Februay, without providing details of when or why or where they are being detained. The Geneva organization is working to ensure that China respects the international principle of no forced return.