Jolie shares festive cheer with refugees in Lebanon

News Stories, 29 December 2004

© UNHCR Beirut
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie (centre) celebrating Christmas Eve with UNHCR staff in Beirut.

BEIRUT, Dec 29 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency's Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, has spent her third consecutive Christmas season with refugees and UNHCR staff in the field, this time in Lebanon.

The American actress was on a private visit to Lebanon from December 19-26, but took the opportunity to visit UNHCR's regional office in Beirut as well as some young refugees and cancer patients in the Lebanese capital.

"Being here for Christmas has been very special," said Jolie. "After so many years of conflict, to see Christmas trees next to mosques everyone in the holiday spirit is something beautiful and symbolic of reconciliation. It is an example of hope for other areas of the world."

The Goodwill Ambassador and her three-year-old son Maddox celebrated Christmas with some 30 UNHCR colleagues in Beirut on December 24. She was presented with a gift in a gesture of gratitude for her tireless efforts to spotlight refugees' problems around the world.

Since 2001, Jolie has travelled to more than 16 countries on four continents as UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador. She shared the Christmas season with refugees in Cairo last December, and with Kosovo's displaced persons and returnees the year before.

In Beirut, UNHCR's regional office coordinates with the branch offices in Amman and Damascus to ensure harmonised standards for protection and assistance to refugees. Lebanon itself is not a party to the 1951 UN Convention or to its 1967 Protocol. Yet since 1963, the country has been a permanent member of UNHCR's Executive Committee, which reviews and approves the agency's programmes and budgets and advises on legal protection matters by setting international standards with respect to the treatment of refugees.

UNHCR cares for some 1,800 refugees in Lebanon, mainly from Iraq, Sudan and Somalia. Last year, a Community Development Centre was established to provide services to refugees, including language training, computer courses, counselling and other activities for refugee women and youths.

© UNHCR Beirut
UNHCR's Mohamed Hantosh presenting gifts of appreciation to Jolie and Maddox, both wearing traditional Lebanese costumes.

Jolie visited this centre, where she met with 12 refugee children from Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, and distributed gifts. One of the children told her, "I just rushed from school to see you because I like you very much and think that you're a beautiful actress and person. It is a great dream and pleasure to meet you! You've done so much to help people and refugees around the world by spreading love, care and happiness."

On December 25, Jolie visited St. Jude's Children's Cancer Centre, where she spent time with 15 cancer patients aged between five and 18, along with their families. She distributed gifts and took photos with the children. Interviewed by a young patient who is a cub-reporter for Al-Nahar, a local Lebanese paper, she told him, "We have a lot to learn from you about strength, survival and hope."

Towards the end of her trip, the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador expressed her gratitude to the government of Lebanon for generously receiving and hosting refugees and urged the international community to continue its support for refugees in the country.




UNHCR country pages

Barbara Hendricks and UNHCR

Hendricks' activities for refugees since 1986.

Barbara Hendricks Biography

Read about Hendricks' life and career.

Muazzez Ersoy Biography

A Turkish singing delight.

George Dalaras Biography

A star among the pantheon of stars.

George Dalaras and UNHCR

Read about Dalaras's long link with UNHCR.

Muazzez Ersoy and UNHCR

Learn about Muazzez Ersoy's links with UNHCR.

Related Internet Links

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

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 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 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

Lebanon: Living in HardshipPlay video

Lebanon: Living in Hardship

Lebanon is a small country of 4 million. For several years it has hosted more than 1 million Syrian refugees, with the help of UNHCR and other agencies. It is a mammoth humanitarian task. On his first trip since becoming High Commisisoner, Filippo Grandi, came to Beirut to see how the refugees and the country are coping.​
Lebanon: Refugees Brave Winter in Unfinished BuildingPlay video

Lebanon: Refugees Brave Winter in Unfinished Building

More than half of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live in precarious shelters such as unfinished buildings, garages and shops. Their already difficult conditions are made worse by the winter weather.
Lebanon: US Dream keeps Hopes Alive for Syrian Family 
Play video

Lebanon: US Dream keeps Hopes Alive for Syrian Family

When Syrian refugee Yaser, his wife Amani, and family heard media reports of anti-refugee sentiment among some quarters in the United States, they feared their 18-month wait to find refuge in the country that resettles more refugees than any other could go on indefinitely. But putting their hopes on a new life in the United States, away from the horrors of Syria's war is the refugee family's only way to escape the fear of the past and struggles of the present in Lebanon.