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5th Mar 2005, 01:02
Angelina Jolie Advocates for Refugee Children

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie will come to Washington, DC next week as part of her advocacy of refugee children who come to the United States seeking safety. Jolie, who visited children in facilities like the one pictured below in Arizona, is eager to help these youngsters, especially those who are orphans or have been separated from family members. There are over 5,000 separated children who are apprehended in the United States every year, and all of them need legal representation.


The UN refugee agency has long advocated against the detention of asylum seekers and refugees worldwide. While the US and other industrialized countries continue to send children like these to a detention program, UNHCR plays the role of monitor and advocate, seeking to improve conditions and ensure lawful outcomes.

Two years ago, responsibility for the care and placement of unaccompanied children in the US was transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the US Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) from the immigration authorities of the Immigration and Naturalization Services -- a move that UNHCR supported. Jolie and UNHCR welcomed the transfer of custody of these children from an enforcement agency to one that focuses on child welfare. HHS has decades of experience working with resettled refugees. But these children need more than better detention facilities.
When Angelina visited some of these facilities, she was particularly moved by the plight of unaccompanied children trying to weave their way through an extremely complicated immigration system.

"Many of these children have survived tragedy, so being separated from their families can only add to their suffering," she said. "Access to legal representation and a guardian to help them through this difficult immigration process is absolutely essential to protect them and ensure that their best interests are met." Next week, Jolie will meet with lawmakers on the subject.

In addition, a $500,000 donation she made to UNHCR has been granted to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in partnership with the American Immigration Lawyers Association to establish the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children. The Center will help hundreds of immigrant children obtain lawyers free of charge for their immigration proceedings. Says Jolie, "these children are true survivors. I am awed by their spirit and inspired by their resilience. I hope they can find ways to work together to provide them with the care and assistance they deserve."

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