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Angelina Jolie Calls For Security For Displaced

Sudan: UN Refugee Advocate Angelina Jolie Calls For More Security For Displaced

Just back from a visit to Darfur, Sudan, Angelina Jolie, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations refugee agency, yesterday said she found conditions too dangerous for the region's vast population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their home villages.

Ms. Jolie, a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) since August 2001, told a press conference in Khartoum that the agency is investigating conditions in villages to gauge whether it is appropriate to begin returns.

"Obviously returns are something this government would like to see happen. But from the sense I got from the people and from my observations during this visit, it is clearly not right now," she said. "When it is time for return, it is important that it be done in safety and in dignity."

Ms. Jolie's three-day visit to West Darfur state, where she inspected IDP camps and spoke to locals and aid workers, is her second to the region since the conflict in Darfur began early last year. In June, the actress toured refugee camps in neighbouring Chad.

During her visit this week Ms. Jolie said she heard many stories from IDPs of village raids and rapes by Janjaweed militias. "These events are recent and horrifying. And they show there is still instability."

More than 1.45 million people are internally displaced and another 200,000 live as refugees in Chad because of the conflict engulfing Darfur. The IDPs and refugees have fled often brutal attacks from the Janjaweed as well as fighting between two rebel groups and Sudanese Government forces.

Ms. Jolie said she was especially concerned by the plight of children in Darfur after meeting many of them in the IDP camps.

"They have no access to school or medical attention. But when asked what they need, before food and clothes, they said security first. The fact is no place is 100 per cent safe."

Calling for greater donations to UN humanitarian agencies and their partner non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Darfur and Chad, Ms. Jolie said the agencies need more support so they can reach IDPs across Darfur, a desolate and impoverished region about the size of France.

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