60th Anniversary: Angelina Jolie marks milestone with tribute to the displaced and UNHCR staff

News Stories, 17 December 2010

© UNHCR/Alonso Serrano
Goodwill Ambassadors Angelina Jolie and Jesús Vázquez meet and swap experiences in UNHCR's Madrid office.

MADRID, Spain, December 17 (UNHCR) UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors Angelina Jolie and Jesús Vázquez met in Spain this week and paid tribute to the staff of the refugee agency on its 60th birthday and to the people they help.

"In the week of UNHCR's anniversary, I would like to highlight the strength and courage of the world's refugees and [other] forcibly displaced people who are, for all of us, an example of generosity and dignity," Jolie said during a visit Thursday to UNHCR's Madrid office. "My thoughts go also to the dedicated UNHCR staff, who for many years have risked their lives to protect the lives of refugees."

Award-winning actress Jolie was in Madrid to promote her latest film, "The Tourist," and took the opportunity to meet UNHCR staff and discuss Spain's asylum system, mixed migration flows into the country, resettlement and other important issues. She also heard about plans for the anniversary year.

Jolie met Vázquez, a popular TV presenter in Spain, and shared with him some of her experiences as a goodwill ambassador over the past decade. Since becoming a goodwill ambassador in 2006, Vázquez has been actively supporting awareness and fund-raising activities in Spain on behalf of refugees, including a charity art auction on Wednesday in Madrid.

UNHCR turned 60 on Tuesday. It was founded on December 14, 1950 to help Europeans displaced during World War II and was only expected to be in existence for three years. Today, it works around the world, helps millions of people and has an open-ended mandate.

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Jesús Vázquez

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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.

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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.

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