Angelina Jolie appeals for more Afghan returnee support after visit

Briefing Notes, 24 October 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 24 October 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie yesterday (Thursday) concluded her first visit to Afghanistan, where she saw both the successes and difficulties of refugee return and reintegration.

Ms. Jolie commented that "the courage, resilience and quiet dignity of returnee families rebuilding their lives against the kind of adversity few of us can imagine shows the human spirit at its best." She appealed for long-term commitments to Afghanistan and greater humanitarian support for the population as the harsh Afghan winter approaches.

Ms. Jolie is no stranger to UNHCR's Afghan operation, one of our biggest worldwide. She had met with Afghan refugees in neighbouring Pakistan twice in recent years and wished to see for herself how returnees were coping on their return to Afghanistan.

Her visit, which ran from Tuesday to Thursday, was also aimed at raising awareness of the refugee issue ahead of an international conference on return and reintegration to be held in Kabul in November. Despite the huge returns to Afghanistan over 5 million people have gone home over the past six years approximately 3 million registered refugees remain in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan.

During her mission, Ms. Jolie travelled to Nangarhar province, where almost 20 percent of all returnees have settled since 2002. She visited the Lower Sheikh Mesri and Tangi settlement sites where recent returnees from Pakistan are living on desolate, desert land in tattered tents and makeshift shelters. The returnees told her they could not return to their places of origin due to a lack of land and poor security. She also visited UNHCR income-generating projects for vulnerable women in Jalalabad city.

The goodwill ambassador witnessed similar challenges in Kabul, where she visited families who had returned from Pakistan in 2003 but have still been unable to go back to their home villages. They have been squatting in public buildings in Kabul for several years due to the lack of available land in Parwan, their province of origin. The returnees explained that landlessness and insecurity were not the only obstacles to return. Economic problems in rural areas such as a lack of employment opportunities also influenced their decision to remain in the capital despite the difficult conditions there.

Ms. Jolie ended her trip by calling for more international commitment to help returnee reintegration through supporting long-term national development programmes in Afghanistan. Next month's international conference, co-chaired by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNHCR, will address how best to ensure the sustainable return of refugees and the displaced in the years to come.




UNHCR country pages

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie returned to Iraq in July 2009 to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.

During her day-long visit to Baghdad, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in north-west Baghdad where she met families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib, located to the west of Baghdad, and from the western suburbs of the capital.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives. "This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006 after the bombing of a mosque in the ancient city of Samarra. Almost 300,000 people have returned to their homes amid a general improvement in the security situation since mid-2008.

Angelina Jolie returns to Iraq, urges support for the displaced

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined UNHCR chief António Guterres on the Italian island of Lampedusa, where they met with boat people who have fled unrest in North Africa.

More than 40,000 people, including refugees and asylum-seekers, have crossed the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats and descended on the small island since the beginning of the year.

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador flew to Lampedusa from Malta, which has also been a destination for people fleeing North Africa by boat.

Angelina Jolie meets boat people in Malta, Lampedusa

Angelina Jolie in Bosnia

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie met with forcibly displaced people on April 5, 2010 during her first visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina. The actress, accompanied by her partner Brad Pitt, called for steps to end the continued suffering of these victims of the Bosnian War after hearing their harrowing tales and seeing their grim living conditions.

Jolie was clearly moved by the spirit - and the ordeal - of the people she met and she pledged to highlight their case. Most of the people she talked to have been living in exile since the end of the 1992-1995 conflict. Jolie visited collective centres in the towns of Gorazde and Rogatica, where the inhabitants lack basic services such as running water.

The actress spent some time with a group of women who were raped or tortured during the war. Their tales left a deep impression on her. She also met a family of refugee returnees who were still waiting to move into their village home near the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad.

Angelina Jolie in Bosnia

Croatia: Sunday Train ArrivalsPlay video

Croatia: Sunday Train Arrivals

On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.
Afghanistan Needs Your SupportPlay video

Afghanistan Needs Your Support

Croatia; Destination UnknownPlay video

Croatia; Destination Unknown