UN envoy Angelina Jolie urges int'l help for Syrian refugees
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Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan - Hollywood star and UN special envoy Angelina Jolie urged the world on Tuesday to help Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country as she visited a refugee camp in Jordan.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh accompanied Jolie and called for international support to help the tiny kingdom cope with the influx of refugees from its northern neighbor.
"We encourage the international community to do everything they can to support these refugees, and there is much to be done," Jolie told a joint news conference at Zaatari refugee camp, 85 kilometers (53 miles) north of Amman in a desert area near the border with Syria.
"It has been a very heavy experience," she said of her tour of the camp. "It is very emotional to be with people who are wondering who is on their side."
Guterres appealed to the international community to "help us and to help the Jordanian government... in order to be able to massively invest in improving the living conditions of refugees in this camp... please help us."
"Since the beginning of the crisis over 200,000 Syrians have crossed the borders into Jordan without going back into Syria," he said.
"I think the world should understand how difficult it is for Jordan to cope with this challenge," he told the news conference, attended by Judeh.
Guterres also highlighted the miserable living conditions in Zaatari. "This camp, like all other camps in the world, is a very difficult place to live in," he said.
In Geneva, meanwhile, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said the number of refugees who have fled Syria for neighboring countries since the start of the conflict nearly 18 months ago has reached more than 250,000.
"Latest figures show that more than a quarter of a million Syrian refugees (253,106 people) have now been registered in the surrounding region, or are awaiting registration," Edwards said.
"The complexity of the crisis is one of the aspects which sets it apart and the speed with which people have fled Syria," he added.
The fact that 100,000 people had fled the country into neighboring countries in the space of a month made it "an extraordinary acceleration of this crisis", Edwards said.
UN figures show that 85,197 refugees are registered in Jordan, with a further 35,961 awaiting processing. Jordanian officials say almost 30,000 refugees live in Zaatari, where unrest erupted last month over living conditions.
Judeh called on for assisting his country, saying that Jordan's capabilities to take in refugees had already been overtaken.
"The problem has become huge, and there are now enormous numbers of Syrian brothers and sisters in towns and villages in the kingdom," he said, adding that this had "surpassed Jordan's capacity."
"No one wants to live in a refugee camp," he said, but stressed that "it is a humanitarian duty (to host refugees) and we are prepared to keep our borders open."
Jordan has said it needs $700 million in international aid to cope with the influx of refugees.
Guterres noted on Tuesday how Jordan over the years has taken in refugees from Palestine and Iraq in "successive waves of 2.7 million refugees."
The UN says more than 1.2 million Syrians, over half of them children, have become internally displaced in the country while an estimated 250,000 refugees sought shelter in neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.