Hollywood actress and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie is in Jordan to mark
World Refugee Day, which each year is commemorated on June 20. Ms Jolie arrived
in the country on 18 June, and was joined there by UN High Commissioner for
Refugees, António Guterres who flew in from Lebanon. Mr Guterres and Ms Jolie
will be meeting government officials and refugees living in Jordan’s cities, as
well as in the sprawling Za’atri refugee camp.
The purpose of her visit, said Ms Jolie, is “to show support for Syria's refugees, to call on the world to address their plight, and to better understand needs in Jordan and other countries in the region most directly affected by this devastating conflict.”
On Tuesday night Ms Jolie travelled to the Jordan-Syria border, where she listened to accounts from men, women, and children who had fled Syria just hours before. She heard stories of bombs and pain and loss from people fleeing Homs, Dara’a and Qusair, three of the communities devastated by the Syrian conflict.
Ms Jolie encouraged the refugees to tell her, and through her the world, of their ordeal. “We can’t know your pain,” Ms Jolie said at one point, speaking to families who had lost their loved ones.
She met Mohammed Al-Kassem, his wife Walida and their young daughter Faten who had just arrived after escaping from Qusair, the site of a bitter battle which left the town in rubble and unleashed a recent wave of refugees into neighbouring countries. “In the battles and bombing, most of my friends died,” he said. “There is nothing left, all was destroyed, no buildings, no medicines. Ninety-five men died because their wounds became infected and there was nothing to treat them with. I was the only one of my family to escape. Those who could not flee can only wait for death.”
After meeting with refugees, Ms Jolie was briefed by Maj.-General Hussein Al-Zyoud, the commander of the Jordan Border Security Forces, and his staff. As they talked, shelling just across the border in Syria could be heard clearly.
The war in Syria forced some half a million people to flee last year. In the last six months the number has more than doubled to 1.6 million, of whom 540,000 are in Jordan.
"The worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century is unfolding in the Middle East today," said Ms. Jolie. And yet, she added, "the international response to this crisis falls short of the vast scale of this human tragedy. Much more humanitarian aid is needed, and above all, a political settlement to this conflict must be found."
She urged the world to do much more to help the people of Syria.
About World Refugee Day, June 20 2013
World Refugee Day was established by the UN General Assembly in late 2000 and is marked each year on 20 June. For World Refugee Day 2013 UNHCR has launched a campaign highlighting the strength and resilience of the more than 45 million people around the world forced to flee their homes due to war or persecution. Multiple refugee emergencies in recent month have forced record numbers of people to flee – yet the vast majority of media coverage given over to the conflicts in Syria, Mali, South Sudan and DRC, rarely focuses on the human cost of war. UNHCR’s “1 family” campaign aims to remind the world that the victims of war are mothers, fathers, sons and daughters and that even 1 family torn apart by war is too many http://www.unhcr.org/1family/
UNHCR Global Trends Report
UNHCR’s flagship Global Trends report, showing worldwide forced displacement, was released earlier today. The new report shows forced displacement at an 18-year high, with Syria having become a major contributing factor. The report with accompanying press release and other materials can be downloaded at http://www.unhcr.org/globaltrendsjune2013/
Photo: UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie records the stories of refugees who have just escaped the war in Syria at the Jaber border crossing in Jordan on 18 June.© UNHCR/O.Laban-Mattei
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