Angelina Jolie returned to Lebanon this week to visit with Syrian refugees. This is the fifth year of a conflict that has caused approximately 4.8 million people to flee Syria to Lebanon as well as another 6.5 million people that have been displaced within Syria itself.
While there, Jolie issued a plea to world leaders and governments to continue taking leadership in helping refugees.
“I spent time this morning with a mother who was paralyzed after being shot by a sniper’s rifle in a besieged area of Syria,” Jolie said to People. “She lies in one room, where she lives with her whole family, in a small, cold, makeshift settlement here in the Bekaa Valley. Never once during our discussion did she ask for anything, did she stop smiling, or talk of anything other than her desire for her children to have the chance to go to school and have a better life. When I saw her beautiful smile, and her dedicated husband and children looking after her, I was in awe of them. They are heroes to me. And I ask myself, ‘What have we come to when such survivors are made to feel like beggars?’ We can do the right thing by refugees and build a more secure international environment. We can build order out of chaos.”
Last April, Jolie briefed the United Nations Security Council as a UNHCR ambassador.
“I appeal to all governments to uphold the UN Convention on Refugees and basic human rights law, because it is both necessary and possible to protect people fleeing persecution and death and protect citizens at home,” Jolie continued. “It should not be reduced to a choice between one or the other. In my view it comes down to understanding the law, choosing not to be afraid, and showing political will. For the sake of the people of Syria, and for all the refugees around the world looking desperately to the international community to provide solutions, I hope we will do this. And I also hope that the 15th of March next year will finally herald a Syria at peace, and will be the beginning of a time of returns so that these refugees are able to fullfill their desire to go home.”
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt concluded her mission to Greece by meeting volunteers, NGOs and local authorities engaged in emergency response efforts on the island of Lesvos, and speaking with refugee families.
The meetings followed the Special Envoy’s visit to Athens yesterday, during which she met volunteers assisting refugees and asylum seekers at Piraeus Port, visited a temporary accommodation site at Eleonas, and also met with refugees and asylum seekers.
In Athens the Special Envoy also held talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. She reiterated UNHCR’s offer of support to increase protection and assistance to refugees, to support reception, and to support access to asylum and the EU relocation programme.
They also discussed the high-level meeting hosted by UNHCR in Geneva on 30th March focused on the expansion of legal pathways for Syrian refugees, in the light of the urgent need to enable the most vulnerable refugees to reach safety, to reduce the need for these people to put themselves in the hands of smugglers.
On Lesvos, Ms Jolie Pitt also visited Moria registration centre where 2,800 refugees and asylum seekers are temporarily housed, to hear directly from families about their situation and their experiences. 95% of the refugees in Moria are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. She urged refugees to ensure they register with the Greek authorities and work through the formal asylum system.
Speaking at the end of her visit, Ms Jolie Pitt said: “I look forward to UNHCR being able to enhance its support to the Greek authorities in coordinating the humanitarian response, and together with partners, support efforts of the authorities to ensure effective registration as well as access to asylum and relocation, with particular attention to those who are the most vulnerable.”
“I want to thank the Greek people for their understanding and generosity in the face of difficult circumstances, and the efforts of the volunteers and local organizations I met during my visit. They and many others are working around the clock to receive and care for refugees arriving in Greece. This needs to be matched by an international response equal to the scale of the global refugee crisis, which includes ending the conflict in Syria but must go far beyond that.”
Jolie has visited refugees all over the world, and spoken out about their plight.