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Iraq UN refugee agency increasingly concerned at surging exodus due to violence

“Inside Iraq and in neighbouring States, an increasing number of families are becoming dependent and destitute,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Ron Redmond told a news briefing in Geneva. “Many of those fleeing now have little money, and those who fled earlier are running out of resources.“The welcome mat is also wearing thin in some of the neighbouring States, which have been extremely generous in hosting so many Iraqis. While they are still tolerated, we’re seeing stricter measures being implemented on duration of stay and visa extensions. Rents are high, with Iraqis blamed for driving up prices.“Market prices have also gone up and health facilities and schools are becoming overcrowded in some areas,” he added, appealing to adjoining nations to continue extending hospitality and temporary protection and for countries beyond the immediate region to help carry the burden.UNHCR briefed government donors in Amman, Jordan, this week on the situation.The displacement has forced the agency to reassess its priorities throughout the region, shifting from assisting returns and aiding 50,000 non-Iraqi refugees in Iraq to providing more help to some of the tens of thousands fleeing their homes every month. Many are moving on to other countries in what could be termed a steady, silent exodus.UNHCR’s 2006 budget of $29 million for its Iraq operation is still $9 million short and activities risk being cut before the end of the year if the funds are not forthcoming. The Iraqi Government, UNHCR and its partners estimate there are now more than 1.5 million people displaced internally, including over 365,000 who have fled their homes and communities since the mosque bombings in Samarra in February.UNHCR estimates that up to 1.6 million Iraqis are now outside their country, most of them in Jordan and Syria. Others are in Iran, some of whom have been outside Iraq for a decade or more. But many have fled since 2003 and “we’re now seeing a steadily increasing arrival rate,” Mr. Redmond said, noting that at least 40,000 Iraqis are reported to be arriving in Syria each month.Tens of thousands are moving further afield; of some 40 nationalities seeking asylum in European countries in the first half of 2006, Iraqis ranked first with more than 8,100 applications. “Where last year, we saw more than 50,000 Iraqis go home from neighbouring countries, this year we’ve seen only about 1,000 returns,” Mr. Redmond said. “Far more are leaving.”Inside Iraq, the Government estimates that up to 50,000 people are leaving their homes every month. “The enormous scale of the needs, the ongoing violence and the difficulties in reaching the displaced make it a problem that is practically beyond the capacity of humanitarian agencies, including UNHCR,” Mr. Redmond said.“The longer this goes on, the more difficult it gets as both the internally displaced and their host communities run out of resources. Thousands of displaced without family links or money are living in public buildings and schools, in often hazardous improvised shelters and in Government-run camps administered by the Iraqi Red Crescent. There is an urgent need for shelter and aid items, food, access to water and employment.” read more

US auto sales fall in Sept but companies predict rebound despite government

DETROIT – Automakers expect little impact from the federal government shutdown, and they predict a fourth-quarter rebound after a rare sales decline in September.Auto sales dropped 4 per cent from a year ago to just over 1.1 million, mainly due to a calendar quirk that pulled Labor Day weekend transactions into August’s numbers. The drop ended a 27-month streak of gains for the industry.General Motors, Honda and Volkswagen reported double-digit declines for last month. Toyota, Nissan and Hyundai posted smaller decreases. Only Ford and Chrysler reported gains among the bigger automakers.GM’s 11 per cent drop was its first since July of last year. It allowed Ford to get within 2,049 vehicles of unseating GM as the top U.S. automaker for the first time since May of 2011.Most industry officials viewed September as an anomaly. They also downplayed the impact of the government shutdown, assuming it’s a short one.Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. sales chief, said the fundamentals are still in place for GM and the industry to rebound in the coming months. Jobless claims are falling, home prices continue to recover, gas prices are down, household wealth is rising and the Federal Reserve has postponed the end of a bond-buying program that kept interest rates low, he said.“As long as the underlying economic factors are supporting the business, which we believe they will through the end of this year and into 2014, we’ll get through this turbulence,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. sales manager.Jim Lentz, Toyota’s North American CEO, told The Associated Press in an interview that people have grown used to dysfunction in Washington.Earlier this year, when the government failed to avoid automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, there were predictions that the economy would melt down, Lentz said.“Basically they were told that when you wake up tomorrow, the Earth is going to stop spinning,” Lentz said. “For the most part the Earth didn’t stop. And I think that’s how they view this again.”The shutdown will only affect sales if it causes credit markets to tighten, Lentz said. That will be a problem, he said, because low interest rates and abundant credit have helped fuel the auto sales recovery.There was concern among executives and analysts that a long shutdown — and a looming confrontation over raising the government’s debt ceiling — could eventually cause sales to fall. McNeil said anything over two weeks could cut into consumer confidence.“Consumers don’t like to make big-ticket item purchases when there’s a lot of uncertainty in the economy,” said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for the TrueCar.com auto pricing site.One reason GM’s sales fell last month was a reversal in pickup trucks, which have been hot-sellers. Sales of GM’s full-sized pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, fell 8 per cent even though the company is selling redesigned trucks.Some versions of the trucks were slow to reach showrooms. At the same time, Ford’s F-Series pickup, the top-selling vehicle in the nation, posted nearly a 10 per cent increase, and sales of Chrysler’s Ram truck rose 8 per cent.Ford and Chrysler offered more than $4,000 in discounts as they sold down 2013 models, according to the Edmunds.com auto site. But GM reduced its incentive spending almost 30 per cent compared with last year to about $3,900.While touting its incentive discipline in September, GM announced increased discounts starting Tuesday, including $1,000 cash on a 2014 Silverado and up to $4,500 on a 2013 model.Pickup trucks are traditionally the top-selling vehicles in the U.S., and they’re key to automakers’ profits. Companies make around $10,000 per truck.McNeil said GM’s sales should return to normal levels for the rest of the year. Through September, the company’s sales are up almost 8 per cent from a year ago.At Honda, sales dropped 10 per cent as two of its most popular models, the Accord midsize car and the CR-V small crossover SUV, posted declines. Sales of the Accord, which have been hot all year, fell nearly 14 per cent, while CR-V sales were off almost 4 per cent.Other automakers reporting sales included:—Ford Motor Co. bucked the industry trend with a 6 per cent sales increase. It was led by sales of the Fusion midsize sedan, which jumped 62 per cent over last September. The subcompact Fiesta posted nearly a 29 per cent gain. But sales of the Escape SUV — one of Ford’s bestsellers — dropped 2 per cent, and Explorer SUV sales were up just 1.5 per cent.—Chrysler Group LLC, with a 1 per cent increase aided by the Ram and the ever-popular Jeep Grand Cherokee with sales up 19 per cent.—Toyota Motor Corp., which posted a 4 per cent sales drop. Sales of the midsize Camry, the top-selling car in the U.S., fell 7 per cent, but the redesigned Corolla compact posted a 1 per cent increase.—Nissan Motor Co. reported a sales drop of nearly 6 per cent. The company’s top-selling Altima midsize car, posted a 13 per cent sales decline.—Volkswagen AG, which has struggled all year against strong 2012 numbers, had a poor month. Its top-seller, the Jetta small car, posted a nearly 10 per cent sales decline.—Hyundai Motor Co., which also has struggled this year, posted an 8 per cent decline. Sales of its Sonata midsize car were down 20 per cent. by Tom Krisher And Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press Posted Oct 1, 2013 8:06 am MDT US auto sales fall in Sept., but companies predict rebound despite government shutdown AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more