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Jolie Appeals for Syrian Refugee Action

  • Margaret Besheer

Actress Angelina Jolie Pitt, U.N. special envoy for refugee issues, told the Security Council on Friday of the suffering of Syrian refugees she has met during visits to the region and urged council members to overcome their political divisions and end Syria's conflict.

Jolie Pitt said she had made 11 trips to countries hosting Syrian refugees over the past four years. She said she wished some of the refugees could speak to the council.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres listens as U.N. Special Envoy for Refugees Angelina Jolie Pitt addresses the Security Council on Syria's refugee crisis, April 24, 2015.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres listens as U.N. Special Envoy for Refugees Angelina Jolie Pitt addresses the Security Council on Syria's refugee crisis, April 24, 2015.

“I think of the mother I met recently in a camp in Iraq, and she could tell you what it’s like to try to live after your young daughter is ripped from your family by armed men and taken as a sex slave," Jolie Pitt said. "I think of Hala, one of six orphan children living in a tent in Lebanon. She could tell you what it’s like to share the responsibility for feeding your family at the age of 11, because your mother died in an airstrike and your father is missing."

Jolie Pitt scolded the Security Council for its political divisions and lack of action to resolve the crisis.

“The Security Council has powers to address these threats to international peace and security, but these powers lie unused," she said. "...The problem is not lack of information — we know in excruciating detail what’s happening in Yarmouk, in Aleppo, in Homs — the problem is lack of political will.”

The Security Council has seen four vetoes from Russia, supported by China, of measures that might have helped halt the conflict and the humanitarian disaster it has created. More than 220,000 Syrians have been killed since 2011, among them some 10,000 children, and nearly 4 million Syrians have become refugees.

Jolie Pitt urged council members to visit those refugees so they could see their suffering firsthand.

The council also heard from U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos, who urged members to look at all options to stop the violence. Among the options she recommended were an arms embargo, targeted sanctions for violators of international law, and the implementation of humanitarian pauses. She urged accountability, noting calls for the Syrian file to be sent to the International Criminal Court.

World Food Program chief Ertharin Cousin warned that massive funding shortfalls could force aid agencies to further cut rations to already poverty-stricken Syrian refugees. She said rations had been cut by 30 percent to displaced Syrians inside the country and that some refugees in neighboring countries would receive no assistance.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres spoke of the escalating crisis in the eastern Mediterranean, where Syrian refugees have been among those who have died trying to cross the sea to Europe.

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