Angelina Jolie, UNHCR goodwill ambassador, releases personal journal on working with Colombian refugees
19 November 2002
GENEVA - UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie today released her personal journal, recounting her impressions and experiences as she met with Colombian refugees in Ecuador earlier this year.
Ms. Jolie travelled to Ecuador to meet and assist refugees under the care of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). From June 6-10, Jolie worked amidst the victims of the Western hemisphere's most severe humanitarian crisis.
An Oscar-winning actor, who has starred in such movies as Girl, Interrupted, Pushing Tin and Tomb Raider, Angelina Jolie has been active with UNHCR for the past two years and was appointed UNHCR goodwill ambassador in August 2001. To raise awareness and support for refugees, Ms. Jolie has travelled with UNHCR to Sierra Leone, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, Cambodia, Thailand, Pakistan and Ecuador. She has also contributed generously to UNHCR programmes.
In the border town of Ibarra, one of the largest refugee reception centres in Ecuador, Jolie met families who had fled from guerrilla and paramilitary violence.
"People's lives are truly in danger - not just in the sense that you feel your town is unsafe - their lives are actually being threatened and their houses are being burnt down" Jolie wrote. In Lago Agrio, a few miles from Colombia's hotly-disputed Putumayo province - one of the world's biggest coca-growing regions - Jolie met dozens of women who are growing their own vegetables to generate extra income.
Of her trip to Ecuador, Jolie wrote, "What was really shocking was that every individual person you meet will tell you that their immediate family was [affected]. Somebody's child was killed, somebody's husband. Someone was beaten." In Ecuador alone, an estimated 8,500 Colombian refugees and asylum seekers have come seeking protection, with about 600 new arrivals every month. With fighting intensifying in the decades-long internal conflict that has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced some 2 million people, the violence in Colombia is raising regional concerns.
Through its field presence in the region - four offices throughout Colombia, three in Ecuador and two in Venezuela - UNHCR aims to provide protection, assistance and lasting solutions for the displaced persons inside Colombia and for Colombian refugees in neighbouring countries.