Statement by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie as Syria crisis enters its ninth year
Geneva, 14 March – Violence and destruction in Syria continue to inflict suffering on millions of Syrian people, warned the UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie today, marking the eighth anniversary of the Syrian conflict. Half of Syria’s population has been forcefully displaced since the start of the crisis in March 2011. More than 5.6 million Syrians live as refugees across the region. Millions more are internally displaced.
Special Envoy Jolie said:
“My thoughts are with the Syrian people as we mark yet another year of devastating conflict. In particular, I think of the millions of Syrians struggling as refugees in the region and beyond, all the families displaced inside the country, and all those who have endured injury, trauma, hunger and the loss of family members.
Millions of Syrians have played no part in the war but live with its terrible consequences. It is impossible to describe the resilience and dignity of the Syrian families I have met. Every Syrian refugee I have spent time with over the last eight years, young and old, has spoken of longing for peace in Syria so that they can safely return home. Some have already started going back – internally displaced families and, to a lesser extent, refugees. It is critical that returns are driven by refugees themselves, based on informed decisions, and not by politics. Talking to refugees and placing their perspectives and concerns at the centre of future return planning is vital – it is a question of rights.
In the meantime, the gap between what Syrian refugees and IDPs need to survive, and the humanitarian assistance available to them, is growing by the day. There are Syrians inside the country who are trying to rebuild their lives around the rubble, without the necessary support. Millions of Syrian refugee families are living beneath the poverty line, and wake each day not knowing if they will find food or medicine for their children, and struggling with debt accumulated during eight years of exile.
Women and girls face additional burdens, including severely limited work opportunities and sexual and gender-based violence, such as forced and early marriage, sexual abuse and exploitation, and domestic violence. The host countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt – have done so much to help refugees, but they are in severe need of financing to enable them to continue to support millions of refugees and assist their local populations in coping with the economic and social pressures.
While the conflict continues and until Syrians are able to return to their homes, the least we can do is to try to meet these urgent humanitarian needs: to minimize as much as we can the human suffering, and to try to mitigate some of the damage caused by these eight lost years of senseless conflict. This is the bare minimum that we can do for a people who deserve so much more: the right to live in peace and security and dignity in their country.”