(Newsroom America) -- As the number of Syrians fleeing their country continues to increase, the head of the United Nations refugee agency and that body’s special envoy, Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, visited a camp in Jordan, where they met some of the of thousands of people that have crossed the border to escape the violence in the Middle Eastern country.
High Commissioner António Guterres and Ms. Jolie visited the Za’atri refugee camp, located in a desert region near the Syrian border, and currently holding some 28,000 refugees, out of a total of 85,000 Syrians who are currently registered or awaiting refugee registration in Jordan.
“I am grateful to Jordan and other border countries for keeping their borders open, for saving these people’s lives. They are dying in Syria,” Ms. Jolie told media. “If they were unable to escape with their families many of the people here, many of the people I met today would in fact be dead. It’s an extraordinary thing that they are doing.”
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the actual number of refugees in Jordan is thought to be much higher, and, overall, more than a quarter of a million people have now been registered with the agency, or are awaiting registration in countries around Syria.
Syria has been wracked by violence since an uprising began against President Bashar al-Assad some 18 months ago. More than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since fighting broke out though reports indicate a major escalation of violence in recent weeks in many towns and villages, as well as the country’s two biggest cities, Aleppo and Damascus.
Addressing the media in Geneva, a UNHCR spokesperson, Adrian Edwards, said the visit was aimed at not only showing solidarity with refugees, but also to recognize the commitment of the Jordanian people and Government to protect vulnerable civilians.
“Refugees tell us that artillery and air attacks are continuing in villages and towns close to the Jordanian border,” Mr. Edwards said. “There are reports of thousands of displaced people in Syria’s south, moving from village to village seeking safety before they can cross the border.”
Last night, Ms. Jolie visited Jordan’s border with Syria, where she met newly-arriving families – some 200 families made the dangerous crossing that night; shelling could be heard in the distance.
“It’s been a very heavy experience because often times you come to these camps,” the Special Envoy said. “We have all been around and met with people in conflict situations, but rarely do you come when you meet them as they cross the border and you get to know people the moment they become a refugee, the moment they have lost their home, their schooling, their livelihoods, their education, everything that they have been is gone. And when I asked them, ‘what did you bring?’ they say this, and they show [their] back.”
According to UNHCR, some refugees report being displaced five or six times before finally leaving the country. While the number of people crossing the border tends to fluctuate depending on the security situation in Syria, on average, some 2,000 new arrivals occur daily, with most people crossing the border at night, the agency said.
“We do encourage the international community to do everything it can to support these people and to support them here until they can go home one day. There is much that needs to be done,” Ms. Jolie said.
“It’s a very, very difficult situation and of the appeals that came out – which still have not been met – [they] weren’t even prepared to take into account the extent of what was going to happen, how many people. It grows. The numbers are growing. The conflict is growing.”