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Jolie, Clinton join UNHCR chief António Guterres in live video link to mark World Refugee Day

News Stories, 18 June 2010

© UNHCR/B.Diab
High Commissioner António Guterres talks to an Iraqi refugee in Al Hassakeh before taking part in the live event.

WASHINGTON, DC, United States, June 18 (UNHCR) UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, High Commissioner António Guterres and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took part Friday in a unique live video event linking four locations around the world to mark World Refugee Day.

The event was held in the Benjamin Franklin room on the top floor of the US State Department in Washington, DC, and included participants linked from Ecuador, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Syria.

Addressing the audience of 250 people, media and those watching via the internet, Clinton said: "I hope we can use this day to honour the courage and resilience of the millions of refuges around the world who push forward each and every day with the hope that tomorrow might bring a return home or the hope of a better life. I certainly intend to remain committed to making that hope a reality."

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie joined the proceedings from the remote community of Berranca Bermeja in northern Ecuador, which is home to a small group of Colombian refugees.

Jolie, who first visited Ecuador for UNHCR in 2002, said the refugees, though isolated, were now receiving regular support and assistance from the refugee agency. "I have noticed a great deal of change here," she said. "UNHCR has done extraordinary work. The field officers have been getting out into the Amazon and going up and down the river. They've registered now 50,000 refugees who are so grateful. It's a very moving story."

Sitting among refugees in Al Hassakeh governorate (province) in northern Syria, High Commissioner Guterres praised the generosity of the Syrian people who continue to host more than 1 million refugees from Iraq. In contrast, he said, "increasing numbers of countries are closing their borders" to refugees.

The programme also linked to a settlement for internally displaced people near the town of Dungu in north eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Nearly 2 million Congolese have fled their homes as a result of continuing violence. UNHCR staffer Jorge Holly spoke to a man whose family had fled their home to escape violence by the Lord's Resistance Army, a brutal Ugandan militia group infamous for its attacks on civilians.

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The High Commissioner

António Guterres, who joined UNHCR on June 15, 2005, is the UN refugee agency's 10th High Commissioner.

Finding home: UNHCR honours uprooted people on World Refugee Day

It's said that a man's home is his castle; a place of security and comfort. But for millions of people, home is a distant memory. It is a place they have had to flee to escape violence and persecution. Many end up living in a makeshift shelter or tent, either in their own country or in a foreign land. More than half of the refugees of concern to UNHCR now live in deprived urban areas.

Most dream of going home, others hope for resettlement and some are able to integrate in host countries. All want to have a real home where they can build a new life - a castle of their own.

UNHCR strives to find durable solutions for them. In 2008, almost 2 million refugees and internally displaced people were able to go back home and some 65,548 departed to 26 resettlement countries. Moreover, UNHCR estimates that around 1.1 million refugees have been granted citizenship in their country of asylum over the past decade.

On World Refugee Day, UNHCR recognized the strength and resolve of forcibly uprooted people and reaffirms its commitment to protect and find solutions for them.

Finding home: UNHCR honours uprooted people on World Refugee Day

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travelled to northern Burkina Faso with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BRPM), Anne Richard. In Damba camp, they met with Malian refugees who had fled northern Mali in the past six months to escape the ongoing conflict and political instability. To date, more than 250,000 Malian refugees have fled their homes and found refuge in neighbouring countries, including 107,000 in Burkina Faso alone. The UN refugee agency has only received one-third of the US$153 million it needs to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, sanitation, health services, nutrition and protection to the refugees. UNHCR fears that the volatile political and humanitarian situation in Mali could lead to further outflows to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

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

UNHCR: An Appeal for AfricaPlay video

UNHCR: An Appeal for Africa

The High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, called for more attention and help for African nations dealing with new and old displacements.
Lebanon: UN Agency Chiefs Visit Bekaa RefugeesPlay video

Lebanon: UN Agency Chiefs Visit Bekaa Refugees

The heads of UNHCR and the UN Development Programme visited Syrian refugees and joint projects in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. High Commissioner António Guterres said that the Syria crisis had become the worst humanitarian tragedy of our times.
Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat campPlay video

Iraq: High Commissioner visits Arbat camp

Concluding a visit to Iraq, UNHCR chief António Guterres met with Syrian refugees in Arbat camp in the Kurdistan region. Guterres noted the recent proliferation of humanitarian crises, but urged the international community not to forget about Syria, "the mega protracted crisis of our times."