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Jolie in Iraq urges open borders for Syria refugees

September 17, 2012


A man holds a poster of US actress and UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie during her visit to the Domiz Syrian refugee camp, 20kms southeast of Dohuk city, in northern Iraqi on September 16, 2012. Jolie is in Iraq to check on Syrian refugees. — AFP Photo

 IRAQ:Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie on Sunday called for Syria's neighbours to keep their borders open to refugees, during a visit to a refugee camp in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

“The most important thing is cooperation from the countries on the (Syrian) border... and to make sure these borders in all countries stay open,” said Jolie, a UN refugee agency (UNHCR) special envoy.

“I've been of course very encouraged to be here and hear the government speak of continuing this wonderful, life-saving open border policy,” she told reporters at the Domiz refugee camp in Dohuk province.

“I know how gracious the Kurdish government and the Kurdish region people have been to the Syrian refugees.”The three-province region hosts the majority of the Syrian refugees in Iraq.

According to the UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response website, there are 25,508 registered Syrian refugees in Iraq, of which 16,833 are in Dohuk province.

In this handout image provided by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on September 15, 2012, US actress and UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie, on the fourth leg of a tour to support UNHCR's regional response to the Syrian refugee situation, is seen visiting an area of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, home to families previously displaced by the conflict in Iraq and now returning due to conflict in neighbouring Syria. — AFP Photo

Another 10,914 Syrian refugees are awaiting registration, putting the total at more than 36,000.

The UNHCR has said more than 250,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in neighbouring countries.

The total number of Syrians who have fled the bloody civil war between supporters and opponents of President Bashar al-Assad is even greater.

“With the continuation of the bloodshed in Syria, we have to all be prepared for a greater influx (of refugees), and I'm so happy to hear that the government is continuing to commit to these people,” said Jolie.

The actress, who has been on a tour of countries bordering Syria, arrived in a white UN helicopter, then travelled to the camp by pickup truck.

She stepped out of the vehicle near the camp, waving to the whistling, cheering crowd of Syrian refugees that greeted her.

The photo released by UNHCR shows UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meeting with Syrian refugee children in an undisclosed refugee camp close to the Syrian border in eastern Turkey Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, and his Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie continued their regional tour visiting Turkey today, to hear accounts from Syrian refugees. — AP Photo

“I have been to the four borders of Syria, and this is the first camp I have been to where they are already preparing for winterisation, and also where there are ID cards, giving freedom of movement, which is an extraordinary thing,” Jolie said.

A statement on UNHCR's website said she had met Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Displacement and Migration Minister Dendar Najman in Baghdad, and also met Kurdistan officials including the region's premier, Nechirvan Barzani.

“Combined with the new influx of Syrian refugees and the sudden return of over 30,000 of their own citizens, the complexity of the situation and the challenges for this country just emerging from conflict cannot be overstated,”the statement quoted Jolie as saying.