Actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie is visiting Iraq and Syria to raise awareness of the plight of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families who have fled the violence in their home country.
“I have come to Syria and Iraq to help draw attention to this humanitarian crisis and to urge Governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners,” Ms. Jolie said. “My sole purpose in both countries is to highlight the humanitarian plight of those uprooted by the war in Iraq.”
Today, the Academy Award-winning actress crossed into Iraq from Damascus, the Syrian capital, arriving at the makeshift Al Waleed border camp housing 1,200 stranded Iraqi refugees who are unable to flee their country. She also observed dozens of Iraqis making their way into Syria at a border checkpoint.
According to UNHCR estimates, over 4.2 million Iraqis have been displaced, with 2.2 million within the war-torn nation and two million in neighbouring countries.
“It is absolutely essential that the ongoing debate about Iraq’s future include plans for addressing the enormous humanitarian consequences these people face,” she said, adding that in her role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, she will concentrate on humanitarian issues and leave politics to others.
In Iraq, she also paid a private visit to United States troops and other multinational forces based in the area.
Yesterday, Ms. Jolie arrived in Syria and visited a UNHCR centre in Damascus where she met some of the thousands of Iraqi refugees – almost one-quarter of them being victims of violence and torture – registering with the UN agency.
Spending hours talking to Iraqi refugees in their homes, she recognized Syria for opening its borders and for its generosity to Iraqis.
Tens of thousands of the refugees are unemployed, and many young people are missing out on an education and their futures.
Late last month, UNHCR and the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, jointly launched a $129 million education appeal to send 155,000 Iraqi refugee children to school throughout the Middle East. Yesterday, the United States announced it will contribute $30 million to the fund.