UnNews:Refugee crisis on Wisconsin's west border

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Refugee crisis on Wisconsin's west border

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1 March 2011


The situation on Wisconsin's border with Iowa reaches crisis point as thousands flee unrest against the governor

MADISON, Wisconsin -- The situation on Wisconsin's border with Iowa has reached crisis point, as tens of thousands of people flee unrest in the state, the National Guard says. Aid staff are battling to cope with an exodus that has seen some 140,000 people crossing into Iowa and Minnesota.

Wisconsin leader Gov Scott Walker has played down protests in the state and insisted that all his people love him. His comments came amid reports that he is attempting to regain control of rebel areas in eastern Wisconsin. Gov Walker is facing a massive challenge to his 2-months rule, with protesters in control of towns in the east.

The centre of the city is not normal but it's fairly quiet and people would not be out and about if they thought there was an immediate chance of a violent change of regime. But while we were there a passer-by discreetly, barely stopping and without saying a word pressed a spent cartridge from an M-16 assault rifle into the hand of one of the BBC team. His message appeared to be: "Don't let appearances deceive you."

The regime controls the city centre but it feels different in some of the suburbs. In Racine there's fury about what the regime has done and fear they might do it again. The BBC was given video recordings of a demonstration there last Friday. We could hear the protesters being shot at, some are killed. A man, dead or dying, is carried away with blood spraying out of a bullet wound in his head.

In his interview with the BBC, Gov Walker said there were no demonstrations by Wisconsin’s citizens, only an uprising incited by the Tea Party. I've been to Racine and there people talk about politics, they talk about freedom and an end to almost 2 months of rule by the governor.

One black African-American refugee told the BBC he had fled the rebel-controlled eastern city of Racine because of threats against him by opposition supporters who thought he was a mercenary hired by Walker. "They don't want to see blacks in Racine," he said.

World Food Programme executive director Josette Sheeran told the BBC food was being brought in by road and air, and bought locally, but supplies were under "deep stress".

"This will be a very pressured situation for some time - that's why we have launched an emergency appeal for funds to back up the system here," she said. Tented transit camps are being set up hurriedly on the Iowa side, while frantic efforts are being made to repatriate the stranded.

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