ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – While visiting the largest refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region during Eid, Hollywood star and UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie thanked the Kurdish government for its humanitarian efforts and asked “all governments to meet their responsibilities.”
In a press conference at Domiz camp, the largest Syrian refugee camp in Iraq and home to thousands of families, Angelina Jolie pleaded with the world to address the “desperate situation” in conflict areas such as Iraq and Syria.
“In my country, when we speak of the Middle East we often focus on conflict and human suffering. And it is true that countless families in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen are suffering from conflict they personally have no part in, instability they cannot control, and extremism that they reject.”
Jolie paid a visit to the camp on the third day of Eid al-Fitr, thanking the “people of Iraq for their generosity toward Syrian refugees and displaced people” and in particular, that of the “KRI government” – the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) – “which is setting a model for refugee protection.”
Jolie, who has visited Domiz Camp three times in the last six years, warned that on Tuesday, World Refugee Day, the UNHCR would publish new figures for the number of displaced people and the duration of their exile.
“They are the highest they have ever been.”
Two months after Kurdish officials warned that without increased funding to help refugees, the KRG and its national and international partners would not be able to make basic services and assistance available to the refugee population, Jolie also criticized that “political solutions seem completely lacking, leaving a void humanitarian aid cannot fill.”
“There are millions of refugees and displaced people who want to return home and to work and start over – as I saw in Mosul yesterday, where brick by brick, with their own hands, they are rebuilding their homes.”
Services and reconstruction efforts in the second largest city in Iraq remain insufficient, as the UNHCR Special Envoy noted on her visit Saturday. Her words echoed those of KRG officials, which have long complained the Iraqi federal government lacks a comprehensive, national plan and policy to work with the KRG, UN agencies, and governorates to facilitate and fund the process for displaced people to return home.
The lack of security, instability, threats by militia groups, the lack of a strong administration and services, as well as terrorist activities in liberated areas have made it nearly impossible for displaced families to go back.
Nearly four million Iraqis, mostly Sunnis, were displaced when the Islamic State (IS) emerged in northern Iraq in mid-2014. Most have returned home but still struggle to rebuild.
Approximately 250,000 Syrian refugees fled to the Kurdistan Region since the start of the civil war and have remained under the protection of the KRG. Thirty-seven percent of them are residing in nine refugee camps in the provinces of Erbil, Duhok, and Sulaimani, with the rest being hosted within local communities.
According to recent figures by the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC), the Kurdistan Region is still home to 1.4 million IDPs and refugees, with 97% of the Syrian refugees now in Iraq and 40% of internally displaced Iraqis in the region.
While the situation is bad, Jolie says it is not hopeless.
“The only answer is to end the conflict forcing people to flee their homes and for all governments to meet their responsibilities,” she affirmed. “So, on World Refugee Day this year, I hope that we can find the strength to find a better way forward together so that we move into a new era of preventing conflict and reducing instability, rather than simply struggling to deal with its consequences.”