How UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie helps unaccompanied children arriving in the United States

"On the occasion of World Refugee Day 2004 in Washington D.C. and Barcelona, I announced my support for an initiative for unaccompanied children arriving in the United States.

I have been supportive of the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act for over a year and have been meeting with US Senators and Representatives to urge its passage. The purpose of the bill is to give lawyers and guardians to unaccompanied children who arrive in the US and go through immigration court proceedings.

Over 6,000 children arrive alone in the United States every year. Some are fleeing persecution, many are fleeing abuse. Some are trafficked to work as prostitutes or in sweatshops. Many are eligible for asylum or other humanitarian status in the United States, but US laws do not give them the legal assistance they need to apply.

In April, I visited a US children's shelter facility, and I have seen the immigration court before. The court process is so complex that children cannot be expected to be able to apply for asylum or other legal status by themselves.

I think this issue is so important that I am supporting a UNHCR project to work with the US government agency in charge of care for these children on a pilot programme to increase the number of pro bono lawyers available to children."