Angelina Jolie, UN refugee agency Goodwill Ambassador, issues appeal for civilians and refugees in Côte d'Ivoire and Libya
KABUL, Afghanistan - UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie today voiced deep concern for the tens of thousands of civilians caught up in two separate and fast-unfolding emergencies: Côte d'Ivoire and Libya.
"As we witness these newest crises unfold in west and north Africa, it is critical that all parties respect the fundamental right of people in danger to flee to safety - whether civilians caught in conflict in their own country or refugees and asylum seekers caught in new conflicts," Jolie said. "All I'm asking is that civilians be protected, and not targeted or harmed."
In Côte d'Ivoire, fierce fighting in the Abobo district of Abidjan and clashes in the west over the past few days have blocked access for humanitarian organizations and brought the country perilously close to all-out civil war. Thousands of people have been displaced in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire's commercial hub, and refugees have been streaming across the country's western border into Liberia in unprecedented numbers. Eastern Liberia is already dealing with more than 70,000 Ivorians who have arrived there since the presidential election of late November.
At the same time, UNHCR is worried for thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers, and irregular migrants still inside Libya and in circumstances of considerable danger. Few of these have been able to make it out of Libya and into either Tunisia or Egypt - where most people leaving the country have been heading. On Tuesday, UNHCR said it was particularly concerned for sub-Saharan Africans who have become vulnerable because of suspicions that they are foreign mercenaries. Amid chaotic scenes at the Tunisian border, UNHCR also issued a joint appeal with the International Organization for Migration for a massive humanitarian evacuation for people fleeing Libya into Tunisia.
"With these new waves of uprising and conflict, there is and will continue to be massive new displacement. The world needs to address this moment. We have to give people safe passage, evacuation if needed, and ensure they have asylum. We don't want to look back and find their deaths are on our hands," Jolie said.
The acclaimed actress was speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she has been on a low-profile two-day visit to listen to the problems of returned refugees still struggling to survive and reintegrate almost 10 years after returning from exile.
''As the world's attention shifts to the newest refugee crises, we need to remember that if we don't support people in the long term to really get back on their feet - to feed, shelter and educate their families, to earn a living with dignity, and to participate in meaningful ways in their societies - we will see a continued cycle of instability and new crises,'' Jolie said.
UNHCR is rallying support from donors and other humanitarian and development agencies to redouble their efforts to help returning refugees reintegrate in Afghanistan.