Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie visits Syrian refugees in Turkey

News Stories, 17 June 2011

© UNHCR/J.Tanner
UNHCR Gooodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie at a camp for Syrian refugees in the southern Turkish town of Altinozu.

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

The flight of civilians from north-west of Syria has picked up considerably in the last two weeks. There are now more than 9,600 people living in four camps managed by Turkey with the Turkish Red Crescent.

Accompanied by UNHCR staff and Turkish government officials, Jolie visited the Altinozu camp in Hatay province, 20 kilometres from the Syrian border. Some 1700 Syrians have found shelter there. "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.

She met with one woman who managed to leave Syria heavily pregnant, and has since given birth to her child in the camp. The mother told how her husband had been killed.

Another distraught woman told Jolie she was sick with worry about the fate of her husband still in Syria and unable to cross the border. "The woman claimed her husband was one of many, too afraid to cross," Jolie added.

The American actress praised Turkey for welcoming the refugees, saying it was critical in these situations that people have access to safety. "I am really grateful for the open-door policy of Turkey in allowing these people to enter and the assurances that there will be no forced returns."

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.

"I appreciate the opportunity to visit this camp and talk to these families," Jolie said. "It is a really complex situation and everyone needs to be doing all they can for the innocent families caught in the crossfire. I will be following this situation very closely and doing everything I can," she added.

"The government of Turkey and the Turkish Red Crescent have shown tremendous generosity to the thousands fleeing Syria. The Red Crescent has set up camps really quickly and provided medical and other care. And UNHCR stands ready to assist if the situation starts to escalate."

Ahead of Jolie's mission, UNHCR received dozens of e-mail messages thanking her for her planned visit to the Turkish-Syrian border and her support for the displaced. The refugees living in Altinozu camp greeted her with enthusiastic chanting.

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.

By Ariane Rummery in Hatay Province, Turkey

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •
Turkey: Angelina Jolie Meets Syrian RefugeesPlay video

Turkey: Angelina Jolie Meets Syrian Refugees

The UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador travelled to the Turkey-Syria border to hear the stories of Syrian civilians forced to flee their country.

UNHCR country pages

Related Internet Links

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

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

Angelina Jolie promotes reintegration of Afghan returnees

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie in March 2011 returned to Afghanistan. On her second trip to the country, the acclaimed actress called for greater focus to be put on the reintegration of former refugees. More than 5.5 million refugees have returned since 2002, mainly from Pakistan and Iran, and now make up 20 per cent of the population. UNHCR is concerned that too many of these refugees continue to live without jobs, shelter and other basic needs.

Jolie caught up with several families she had met in 2008, still living in a dilapidated warehouse in Kabul. She was moved to see the families struggling to survive in the cold damp building. Children spend their days washing cars for money instead of attending school; the old and sick told Jolie of their pain to be such a burden on the young.

The actress also visited returned refugees living on the Alice Ghan and Barikab land allocation schemes north of Kabul. The returnees told her they were grateful for their houses but needed help with livelihoods. Jolie also visited Qala Gadu village, where she is funding the construction of a girls' primary school.

Angelina Jolie promotes reintegration of Afghan returnees

Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day

UNHCR's Special Envoy Angelina Jolie spent this year's World Refugee Day with Karenni refugees from Myanmar. Some have been in exile in Thailand for 30 years, making this one of the longest-running refugee situations in the world.

On her fourth visit to the refugee camps in Thailand, Jolie met Baw Meh's family, three generations of refugees who have lived in Ban Mai Nai Soi camp since 1996.

The family told Jolie they fled Myanmar's Kayah state thinking they would return home shortly. Eighteen years later, they are still here. Baw Meh, 75, lost her husband last year. He died before he could fulfill his dream of returning home. Some of their family members have been resettled to third countries. Others have chosen to stay. Baw Meh has refused to go, preferring to stay close to her village.

Like many refugees along the border, her family is watching the reform process in Myanmar closely and mulling the prospect of eventual return. "After 30 years in exile, the best solution we can give these refugees is the right and power to choose their own way forward," said Jolie. "This is our chance to get it right, to break the vicious cycle of conflict and displacement once and for all."

Angelina Jolie revisits Myanmar refugees on World Refugee Day

Turkey: Faysal's Flight from Kobane , SyriaPlay video

Turkey: Faysal's Flight from Kobane , Syria

More than 170,000 people have fled from the town of Kobane in northern Syria to escape a fierce offensive by ISIL militants. Faysal managed to escape to Turkey before the fighting in the cauldron of conflict intensified, but he still has some family left in the besieged town on the border.
Refugees Continue Flowing into TurkeyPlay video

Refugees Continue Flowing into Turkey

Turkey has opened borders point for Syrian Kurdish civilians fleeing clashes between ISIS militants and Kurdish forces. More than 138,000 have crossed over since Friday and more are expected.
Turkey: Surge of Syrian RefugeesPlay video

Turkey: Surge of Syrian Refugees

More than 138,000 Syrian Kurd refugees have crossed into Turkey from the north of Syria in the last three days. This is one of the largest refugee influxes into Turkey since the start of the Syrian crisis in March 2011.