Sunday, 17 January 2021

UN in your language

Angelina Jolie visits refugees from Syria and Libya

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie and UNHCR chief António Guterres met boat people, including unaccompanied minors, on a tiny Italian island on Sunday (June 19) and remembered those who have lost their lives trying to reach Lampedusa by sea from Africa.

Jolie and Guterres visited the Porta d'Europa – a stone gateway on a headland next to the sea where hundreds of boats have arrived with migrants from North Africa, including refugees and asylum-seekers. More than 40,000 people have risked the Mediterranean crossing on overcrowded boats and reached Lampedusa so far this year. A further 1,500 have died in the attempt.


Guterres appealed on European countries to accept the people coming from Africa, especially those fleeing violence in Libya. "When we have so many conflicts at the gates of Europe, the most important thing a country can do is keep their borders open," he stressed, while mentioning Italy by name.

"When I think of these people, these families, I try to imagine what would bring someone – for example a mother with children – to make this journey,” Angelina Jolie said.

"What must her life be like that the best alternative is to risk drowning and suffocation . . . only to be brought to a new country where she may be turned away. Sent back to sea," she said, adding: "Very few of us here today can even begin to understand what kind of painful existence she must have led."

Guterres said it was important that arrivals be moved from the crowded conditions of Lampedusa as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, he spoke against proposals that Italy revive a policy of pushing back to Africa boats carrying migrants. "My position is clear, it's not possible to send people back to a civil war situation."

The same day Ms. Jolie also visited  asylum-seekers at two locations in Malta.  

Ms. Jolie and Mr. Guterres praised the coastguards of Italy and Malta for saving "saved thousands of lives over the years".

Jolie visits refugees in Lampedusa:

 “Look who´s here” – Jolie visits Syrian refugees

Ms. Jolie travelled on Friday (June 17) to Turkey's border with Syria, meeting with many of the refugees who have fled their country in recent weeks.

Jolie visited the Altinozu camp close to the Syrian border where some 1700 Syrians have found shelter. "The people in this camp have fled in fear for their lives, and many told me they were distraught about the safety of loved ones still in Syria," Jolie said.

The American actress praised Turkey for welcoming the refugees, saying it was critical in these situations that people have access to safety. When Jolie arrived, a mob of excited children chanted "look who is here" and "welcome, welcome" as they pushed forward to shake her hand. Many had slogans such as "freedom" painted on their foreheads.

Meanwhile the Goodwill Ambassador highlighted the relevance of UNHCR's new global campaign – dubbed "1 is too many" – to the unfolding crisis.

"In the campaign we highlighted the fact that one refugee without shelter is too many, and in this latest displacement crisis we are seeing thousands in need and there may be many more in Syria yet to receive help. These people deserve and need our help." she said.

Jolie meets Syrian refugees:



Refugees in numbers:

    • Around the world today there are 43.3 million forcibly displaced people. Of these, 27.1 million are internally displaced (IDP) and 15.6 million are refugees.
    • Afghanistan is the leading country of origin for refugees. 2.9 million Afghans live in 71 countries as refugees. Most of them live in Pakistan or Iran.
    • Four out of five refugees are settled in developing countries. 16 % of the refugees are settled in Europe.
    • Pakistan has takes in the highest number of refugees in the world: 1.7 million.
    • Colombia is the county in the word with the most internally displaced people: 3.3 million people.
    • African countries account for 40 % of all IDPs. Conflicts in the Democratic republic of Congo, Sudan and Somalia are crucial factors.


    • Refugee: According to the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951 a refugee is a person who has fled from his or her country because of “well-founded fear of being persecuted”, often for reasons of race, religion, nationality or political opinion.
    • Asylum seeker: An asylum seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not been evaluated by the authorities in the country where the person seeks asylum.
    • Migrant: Migrants choose to move for example to improve their future economic prospects. Since they are not forced to move to save their rights or protect their freedom, international law treats them differently.
    • IDP (Internally Displaced People): IDPs have not crossed international boarders, but have moved to find sanctuary within their own country. Even though they flee for similar reasons as refugees, such as armed conflict and human rights violations, they legally remain under the protection of their own government.