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 Angelina Jolie visits Iraqi Kurdistan, urges open borders for Syria refugees

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Angelina Jolie visits Iraqi Kurdistan, urges open borders for Syria refugees  16.9.2012 

US actress and UNHCR special envoy Angelina Jolie is surrounded by Kurdish security during her visit to the Domiz Syrian refugee camp in Duhok, Kurdistan region of Iraq. September 16, 2012. Photo: AFP/Sadin Hamed.
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Angelina Jolie shares a laugh with the prime minister of Iraq's Kurdistan regional government Nechirvan Barzani during a visit to Erbil, the capital city of Kurdistan region of Iraq,  September 16, 2012. Photo: KRG

September 16, 2012

DOMIZ CAMP/DUHOK, Kurdistan region 'Iraq',—  Angelina Jolie, the Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, travelled to the Kurdistan Region on Sunday to visit refugees in camps along the Syrian border and to discuss with Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani the help provided by the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.

Citing the $10million allocated by the KRG to provide for the needs of the refugees, the Prime Minister said, “We have not received any support from Baghdad, but of course this has not caused us to delay our aid. Instead of waiting for the support of the Federal Government, we have provided immediate assistance to those who have sought shelter with us.”

Hollywood actress Jolie called for Syria's neighbours to keep their borders open to refugees, during a visit to a refugee camp in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

"The most important thing is cooperation from the countries on the (Syrian) border... and to make sure these borders in all countries stay open," said Jolie, a UN refugee agency (UNHCR) special envoy.

"I've been of course very encouraged to be here and hear the government speak of continuing this wonderful, life-saving open border policy," she told reporters at the Domiz refugee camp in Duhok province.

"I know how gracious the Kurdish government and the Kurdish region people have been to the Syrian refugees."

The three-province region hosts the majority of the Syrian refugees in Iraq.

According to the UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response website, there are 25,508 registered Syrian refugees in Iraq, of which 16,833 are in Duhok province.

Another 10,914 Syrian refugees are awaiting registration, putting the total at more than 36,000.

The UNHCR has said more than 250,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in neighbouring countries.

The total number of Syrians who have fled the bloody civil war between supporters and opponents of President Bashar al-Assad is even greater.

"With the continuation of the bloodshed in Syria, we have to all be prepared for a greater influx (of refugees), and I'm so happy to hear that the government is continuing to commit to these people," said Jolie.

The actress, who has been on a tour of countries bordering Syria, arrived in a white UN helicopter, then travelled to the camp by pickup truck.

She stepped out of the vehicle near the camp, waving to the whistling, cheering crowd of Syrian refugees that greeted her.

"I have been to the four borders of Syria, and this is the first camp I have been to where they are already preparing for winterisation, and also where there are ID cards, giving freedom of movement, which is an extraordinary thing," Jolie said.

A statement on UNHCR's website said she had met Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Displacement and Migration Minister Dendar Najman in Baghdad.

"Combined with the new influx of Syrian refugees and the sudden return of over 30,000 of their own citizens, the complexity of the situation and the challenges for this country just emerging from conflict cannot be overstated," the statement quoted Jolie as saying.

In April 2012, Ms Jolie was appointed Special Envoy of the UNHCR, before which she served for several years as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UNHCR. The famous Hollywood actress has been a very strong public advocate for human rights.

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