News Stories, 11 December 2003
RUWAISHED, Jordan, Dec 11 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency's Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina Jolie, has exhorted the Jordanian government to continue its long-standing generosity towards refugees during a trip to Ruwaished refugee camp near the Iraqi border.
Jolie was in Jordan on a private visit, but asked to visit Ruwaished camp in Jordan's remote eastern desert, 70 km from the Iraqi border. The camp currently hosts some 800 people who have fled Iraq since April. The majority of them are Palestinians, with some Somalis and Sudanese who had been working in Iraq before the bombing and insecurity.
Travelling to Ruwaished on Wednesday, Jolie thanked Jordan for keeping its border open during and immediately after the war in Iraq. She also commended the Amman government for hosting the world's largest group of Palestinian refugees – more than 1.7 million people – for more than 50 years.
"In the very short time I have been here, I have come to appreciate the specific constraints Jordan is facing," said the Goodwill Ambassador. "But I really hope Jordan will be able to continue its long-standing tradition of providing humanitarian sanctuary to those people who feel they need to leave Iraq."
The Jordanian government has announced plans to close Ruwaished camp soon and to move refugees to makeshift camps in the no man's land between Jordan and Iraq, where more than 1,000 people – mostly Iranian Kurds – have been stranded since April.
UNHCR has advised the Jordanian government against the premature closure, and stepped up efforts to find solutions for the refugees.
In the meantime, some of Ruwaished's residents remain hopeful. Meeting refugee representatives and visiting a school and health care centre at the camp, Jolie noted, "The children sang songs of pride and longing for their homeland. It was very moving to hear them speak of the dream to have a place called home one day."
The Goodwill Ambassador donated 20,000 Jordanian dinars (close to $30,000) towards educational projects for the refugee children in Ruwaished camp before leaving Jordan on Thursday.