Angelina Jolie visits Syrian refugee shelters in Lebanon

Thursday, March 17, 2016
Angelina Jolie visits Syrian refugee shelters in Lebanon, calls for leadership to address crisis
UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie meets Syrian refugees in Lebanon, calls for leadership to address crisis.
[PHOTO: © L. Knott/UNHCR] 
Beirut, Lebanon: UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie visited Lebanon and met with refugee families on the 5th anniversary of the war in Syria.

The special envoy visited Kholoud, a 38-year-old Syrian refugee and mother of four who lives in a tented settlement in the Bekaa. Khouloud was left paralysed three years ago by a sniper.

“The number of refugees is now higher than the last time we had a World War. We are at an exceptionally difficult moment internationally, when the consequences of the refugee crisis seem to be outstripping our will and capacity and even our courage to respond to it,” Jolie said.

While there are recent glimmers of hope with increased humanitarian access in Syria, the cessation of hostilities, renewed peace talks and promises of better funding, the 5th anniversary of Syria's war comes amid a backdrop of increasingly managed borders by neighbouring countries, creaking under the strain of hosting so many refugees.

“We should never forget that for all the focus on the refugee situation in Europe at this time, the greatest pressure is still being felt in the Middle East and North Africa, as it has for each of the last five years,” Jolie asserted.

The special envoy also visited Beirut where she met a group of women living in poor conditions; a damp collective shelter, that left them and their families exposed to sickness. 

She urged, “My plea today is that we need governments around the world to show leadership: to analyse the situation and understand exactly what their country can do, how many refugees they can assist and how, in which particular communities and to what timeframe; to explain this to their citizens and address fears - based not on emotion but on a measured assessment of what can and must be done to share the responsibility and get on top of this situation”

European states which once welcomed Syrians are now bringing down the shutters in the wake of increasing numbers of refugees seeking safety there. Several countries have imposed entry and border restrictions, leading to a build-up of tens of thousands of refugees in Greece, while the European Union is in discussions with Turkey on an agreement that could potentially see asylum-seekers sent back to Turkey.

“Every Syrian refugee I have spoken to on this visit, without exception, talked of their desire to return home when the war is over and it is safe for them to do so – not with resignation, but with the light in their eyes of people dreaming of being reunited with the country that they love,” the special envoy added.

Five years on, Syria's conflict has spawned 4.8 million refugees in neighbouring countries, hundreds of thousands in Europe, and 6.6 million people displaced inside Syria against a pre-war population of over 20 million. -UNifeed
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