Angelina Jolie urges support for Syrian refugees and Iraqi returnees
News Stories, 17 September 2012
On the final leg of her regional tour, UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie spent the weekend in Iraq. In Baghdad, she visited Iraqi families who had been displaced twice: first to Syria to escape the war in Iraq, and now back to Iraq.
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie yesterday hailed the Iraqi government's willingness to host Syrian refugees fleeing violence and said she hoped all Syrians seeking asylum in Iraq would be welcomed.
"I want to highlight the noble efforts of the Iraqi government and the people of Iraq to support Syrian refugees," said Jolie. "At this juncture, it is critical that Iraq receives urgent international support and continues to welcome refugees across its borders."
In the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Saturday, Jolie met with senior government officials and spent time with Iraqis, until recently refugees in Syria, who have returned to Iraq after fleeing violence in their places of former refuge. She spent today meeting Syrian refugees in the Domiz camp in northern Iraq. She also met officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government, including Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Interior Minister Karim Sinjari as well as the governors of Erbil and Dohuk. Many of the officials she met were former refugees. "We know how it feels," one official told Jolie.
In her meetings Saturday in Baghdad with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hoshyar Zebari and the Minister of Displacement and Migration Dindar Najman Shafeeq and on Sunday with Kurdistan Regional Government officials, Jolie pledged further UNHCR support for the government in receiving and hosting additional Syrian refugees as their numbers rapidly increase.
This was her fourth and final stop of a tour of countries neighbouring Syria, where more than 260,000 Syrian refugees have been registered since the conflict began in March 2011.
Earlier this week, Jolie visited Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey with UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. They both pledged continued support and emphasised the life-saving importance of maintaining open borders and hosting Syrians in need.
This is Jolie's fourth visit to Iraq. Approximately 1.3 million Iraqis remain displaced in their country and the government has made it a priority to improve their standard of living and find solutions for them through voluntary return to their places of origin or through local integration.
"Combined with the new influx of Syrian refugees and the sudden return of over 30,000 of their own citizens, the complexity of the situation and the challenges for this country just emerging from conflict cannot be overstated," Jolie said.