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UN says some asylum seekers can now be sent back to Bulgaria

The UN's refugee agency said Tuesday it was partially lifting a call to stop returning asylum seekers to Bulgaria because conditions there had improved. Under current rules, European countries must return asylum seekers to the first country on the continent they arrive in. But in January the United Nations urged European nations to suspend all returns to Bulgaria, citing "systematic deficiencies in reception conditions and asylum procedures" after the country was swamped with refugees from war-ravaged Syria.

Italy reports 900 migrants rescued at sea

Italy has rescued 896 migrants crossing the Mediterranean by boat overnight, the navy said on Friday, after the government warned of an "emergency" caused by a surge in new arrivals. Three navy warships and two coast guard patrol boats took on the migrants in the Mediterranean and they were then transferred to other vessels and taken to ports in Sicily, the navy said in a statement. In Geneva, the UN refugee agency UNHCR estimated 6,000 people had been rescued by the Italian navy from over 40 overcrowded boats in the past four days.

Kenya rounds up thousands in Islamist crackdown

Kenyan security forces have rounded up thousands of Somalis or Kenyans of Somali origin, leaving many languishing in a football stadium, amid a major crackdown on suspected Islamists blamed for a string of attacks. The operation, which local media say has involved more than 6,000 men from the police and from the elite General Service Unit, started on Friday and appeared to have been focused on Eastleigh, an ethnic Somali-dominated district of the Kenyan capital.

1 dead in Syria refugee camp riot

A man was killed and 10 Syrian refugees were arrested when a riot erupted in a desert camp of northern Jordan, a security chief said on Sunday. "Unknown assailants shot and killed a 25-year-old Syrian man during the riots on Saturday" at Zaatari refugee camp, Brigadier General Waddah Hmud said. "Police did not use weapons against the refugee," Hmud, who heads a department in charge of Syrian refugee affairs, told reporters at the sprawling camp. Another security official named the dead man as Khalid Nemri.

Chinese parents, trapped in one-child web, give babies away on Internet

By Lavinia Mo, Sui-Lee Wee and Li Hui GANZHOU, China (Reuters) - Lu Libing knew he had only one choice as the birth of his third child approached. He couldn't afford hefty fines that would be meted out by Chinese authorities, so he put the unborn child up for adoption. On the Internet he found "A Home Where Dreams Come True", a website touted as China's biggest online adoption forum, part of an industry that has been largely unregulated for years.

Mexico finds 370 abandoned immigrant children

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - In one week, 370 immigrant children, most of them from Central America, were found abandoned in Mexico, after traffickers promised to take them to the United States but left them to their own devices after being paid thousands of dollars, authorities said. Almost half of them, 163 children under the age of 18, were found traveling alone, Mexico's National Migration Institute (INM) said in a statement.

Asylum seekers in Europe reach two-decade high

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Nearly half a million people sought asylum in Europe last year, the most in two decades, with the largest number coming from Syrians fleeing civil war, the European Union said on Monday. In total, 434,160 people sought refuge in the EU's 28 member states in 2013, according to Eurostat, the EU statistics office. That was an increase of nearly 30 percent from the 335,000 requests in 2012.

Syrians are main asylum seekers in rich world: U.N.

By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) - For the first time, Syrians were the biggest group seeking asylum in industrialized countries last year, as the impact of fighting in the country spread beyond the turbulent region, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday. A record number of asylum requests by Syrians and Russians in 2013 raised the total number received in 44 rich countries to it highest since 2001, the agency said. The total of 612,700 claims rose 28 percent from the year before.

Number of refugee applicants in Japan hits record high in 2013

The number of people who applied for refugee status in Japan hit a record high of 3,260 in 2013, up 715 from the previous record in 2012, the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau said Thursday. The figure marked the third straight year of increase, but the number of people granted refugee status plunged to six in 2013 from 18 in the previous year, according to the bureau. Among those who applied, Turkish nationals constituted the largest group at 658, followed by 544 from Nepal, 380 from Myanmar and 345 from Sri Lanka.

China plans investment and reform to ease urbanization drive

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China is planning a major expansion of its transport networks and urban infrastructure as it seeks to increase migration from rural to urban areas, lifting incomes and demand to drive continued economic growth. The 2014-20 urbanization plan released on Sunday aims to boost domestic consumption by increasing the proportion of urban residents among China's population of almost 1.4 billion to 60 percent by 2020, up from 53.7 percent now.
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