MIDYAT, Turkey / DAMASCUS: Hollywood actress and director
Angelina Jolie described a spiraling global refugee crisis as an “explosion of human suffering”
whose causes the international community refuses to confront.
serves as a United Nations special envoy for refugees, was speaking at a news conference Saturday in
southeastern Turkey, home to Syrians and Iraqis displaced by war, on World Refugee
The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said in a report last week that there
were now more refugees than at any other time in history, with 59.5 million people displaced from
their homes worldwide.
“There is an explosion of human suffering and
displacement on a level that has never been seen before,” Jolie said, warning that Syrians and
Iraqis were running out of safe havens as neighboring states reached the limit of their
“It is hard to point to a single instance where, as an
international community, we are decisively addressing the root causes of refugee flows,” she
Jolie and U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres met
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in the city of Midyat, some 50 km from the Syrian border. She also
This was Jolie’s third visit to Turkey since 2011, when
the conflict in Syria began.
The war has displaced more than 3
million refugees, or almost a fifth of the prewar population.
shelters 1.8 million Syrian refugees, as well as thousands of Yazidis, who fled attacks by ISIS in
Iraq last August.
The long-running wars in Iraq and Syria mean that Turkey
has overtaken Pakistan to become the world’s leading host of refugees, and has spent $6 billion on
assisting Syrians alone, UNHCR said.
Jolie arrived from Lebanon, where she
made a brief visit to the Bekaa Valley to introduce her 9-year-old daughter to a Syrian refugee
A report by People Magazine said the one-day trip was for her
daughter, Shiloh, to meet a 12-year-old Syrian refugee girl Jolie met during her last humanitarian
trip to Lebanon in 2014.
“Shiloh is very aware that I hold refugee families
in high regard and has been asking to come on missions and meet them for many years,” Jolie told the
“She had heard about Hala since my last visit to Lebanon,
and has been wanting to meet her and her brothers and sisters.”
humbling and emotional to see Hala and her siblings again, and realize that their situation only
becomes harder as time goes on, and aid for refugees is stretched beyond all limits,” Jolie said.
“Their memories of Syria are fading. They have stopped counting the days in displacement. Nothing is
certain and they feel abandoned.”
In Damascus, the UNHCR marked World
Refugee Day Saturday, as officials urged the global community not to ignore the plight of millions
of people around the world.
The main aim of the campaign is to “get to know
the refugees and bring them closer to the public,” said Ajmal Khaibari, the deputy head of the UNHCR
mission in Damascus.
“We want to show that refugees are normal people who
live in exceptional circumstances.”
The event was held at the Four Seasons
hotel, one of the most luxurious venues in Damascus, for “security reasons,” a UNHCR official
Many refugees were present for the
“It’s not very normal for a refugee. We’re not used to luxury; my
situation doesn’t allow for that,” said Bashar Nazir Abdallah, a 29-year-old physics teacher from
Iraq who has been living in Damascus for six months.
“I never imagined I’d
set foot in the Four Seasons,” said Hassan al-Sadeq Ahmad, a Sudanese student who arrived in Syria
eight years ago.
“It’s great to dedicate a day to refugees. They must
be given importance.”