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.
- In Iraq, Marie-Noelle Little-Boyer, email@example.com, +41 79 217 3046 or +964 0751 736 7401
Video and photos:
- Video footage and still images from Angelina Jolie’s visit to Iraq are available on Refugees Media.