Sunday, June 17, 2018

Statement by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie at Domiz refugee camp in Iraq

In my country, when we speak of the Middle East we often focus on conflict and human suffering.
And it is true that countless families in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen are suffering from conflict they personally have no part in, instability they cannot control, and extremism that they reject.
But on this visit I have been reminded, as I am every time I am here, of the truly extraordinary dignity, resilience, warmth, generosity and grace of the people of the Middle East.
And I want to thank the people of Iraq for their generosity towards Syrian refugees and displaced people, and in particular the KRI government, which is setting a model for refugee protection.
I’m happy have been here on Eid al-Fitr, and I wish the Iraqi people, the Syrian people, and families across this region and beyond, Eid Mubarak, or Jaznawa Piroz Bit.
I am in Iraq to mark World Refugee Day next week. On Tuesday, UNHCR will publish new figures showing that the numbers of displaced people, and the duration of their exile, are the highest they have ever been. At the same time political solutions seem completely lacking, leaving a void that humanitarian aid cannot fill.
Words like “unsustainable” don’t paint a picture of how desperate these times are.
This is my third visit to Domiz camp in six years. The vast majority of its inhabitants are Syrian women and children.
Their lives are on hold indefinitely because of the war. They cannot go back, they cannot move forward, and each year they have less to live on.
I met two mothers this morning, both of them widows. They both lost their husbands while living as refugees, to medical conditions that could normally have been treated.
And now they are both caring for young aged five 5 and 7 who also have life-threatening medical conditions.
When UNHCR’s Syria response was only 50 per cent funded last year, and this year it is only 17 per cent funded, there are terrible human consequences. We should be under no illusions about this.
When there is not even the bare minimum of aid, refugee families cannot receive adequate medical treatment, women and girls are left vulnerable to sexual violence, many children cannot go to school, and we squander the opportunity of being able to invest in refugees so that they can acquire new skills and support their families.
This is the picture in Iraq, in Syria, and wherever in the world you find refugees and displaced people today.
The only answer is to end the conflicts that are forcing people to flee their homes - and for all governments to meet their responsibilities.
So this World Refugee Day I hope that people around the world will consider this larger picture:
What this level and length of displacement says about our world being dangerously out of balance.
What it will say about us if our response is to be selective about when we help, and when we are prepared to defend human rights.
And what it will mean for the future if we are unable to provide enough basic humanitarian support for displaced people and unable to find any solutions to conflicts at the same time.
That is the situation today, but it is not hopeless.
There are millions of refugees and displaced people who want to return home and to work and start over – as I saw in Mosul yesterday, where brick by brick, with their own hands, they are rebuilding their homes.
There are countries that are keeping their borders open to refugees, despite all the pressures and challenges.
There are aid relief workers who are stretching the aid resources, somehow, to minimize loss of life and provide protection.
And there are people around the world who are more committed than ever to defending human rights and basic values.
So on World Refugee Day this year I hope that we can find the strength to find a better way forward together: so that we move into a new era of preventing conflict and reducing instability, rather than simply struggling to deal with its consequences.
Thank you.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy Angelina Jolie (left) during a meeting with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Spokesperson Safin Dizayee, Erbil, Kurdistan Region, June 16, 2018. (Photo: KRG)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie expressed her gratitude to the Kurdistan Region and its people for hosting and supporting displaced persons and said she would encourage more international support for Kurdistan.
Before her visit to the Domiz refugee camp in Duhok on Sunday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy thanked the people of Kurdistan for its care of nearly two million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
According to a readout of her meeting with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Spokesperson Safin Dizayee on Saturday, Jolie said she would “continue to convey the plight of the displaced people to the attention of the international community to encourage more support to the Kurdistan Region.”
She also described Kurdistan as “a model for this kind of humanitarian assistance,” adding the Region “has played a very good role in supporting these vulnerable [displaced] people.”
Since the emergence of the so-called Islamic State (IS), Kurdistan has provided a haven for people fleeing the extremist group from parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
According to KRG statistics, the Kurdistan Region is currently hosting 1.4 million IDPs and refugees.
The massive influx of displaced persons has caused a burden for the Region which has called for international support to help deal with the crisis, a point Dizayee emphasized to the UNHCR Special Envoy and her accompanying delegation.
The KRG Spokesperson, on behalf of Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, invited Jolie and her delegation to continue its visits to Kurdistan “to closely see the situation of the [IDPs] and Syrian refugees in the Kurdistan Region.”
The UNHCR and the KRG agreed “to find creative initiatives beyond material support” to aid the displaced people until conditions are met for them to return to their homes “voluntarily with respect and dignity.”
Jolie’s trip to Erbil comes after she visited war-torn Mosul on Saturday to meet with displaced families and discuss efforts to rebuild the city and provide needs for its returning population.

DOMIZ CAMP - U.N. refugee agency special envoy Angelina Jolie on Sunday visited a camp for Syrian refugees in northern Iraq to drum up support for those displaced by years of civil war.

The Hollywood actress toured the Domiz camp, home to 33,000 refugees from Syria's seven-year conflict.

Jolie arrived in the morning and met families in the camp, a United Nations official said.

A day earlier she visited Mosul, Iraq's major northern city which Iraqi forces took back last year from Islamic State militants. The militants had occupied the city for three years and turned it into a stronghold of a "caliphate" in a military campaign that saw 900,000 residents flee.

Jolie met families from western Mosul and walked through bombed out streets, video footage and photos provided by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) showed.

Normality has returned to many parts of Mosul, with displaced residents leaving camps nearby to return home.

But the Old City in West Mosul was largely destroyed during a campaign by a 100,000-strong alliance of Iraqi government units, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shi'ite militias backed by air support from a US-led coalition.

Reconstruction has been slow.

"This is the worst devastation I have seen in all my years working with UNHCR. People here have lost everything," Jolie said in a U.N. statement.

"They are destitute. They have no medicine for their children, and many have no running water or basic services," she said. "I hope there will be a continued commitment to rebuilding and stabilizing the whole of the city. And I call on the international community not to forget Mosul."

Jolie has worked for UNHCR since 2001, visiting uprooted civilians from Iraq to Cambodia and Kenya. This is her fifth visit to Iraq, UNHCR said.

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