Babylon & Beyond

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LIBYA: Angelina Jolie, actress and ambassador, laments refugee crisis in Libya, West Africa

March 2, 2011 |  9:18 am

Hollywood starlet Angelina Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations' high commissioner for refugees, expressed serious concerns Wednesday about the tens of thousands of civilians caught up in turmoil in Libya and in West Africa's Ivory Coast, according to information released by the humanitarian agency.

“It is critical that all parties respect the fundamental right of people in danger to flee to safety -- whether civilians caught in conflict in their own country or refugees and asylum seekers caught in new conflicts," Jolie said in a statement. "All I'm asking is that civilians be protected and not targeted or harmed."

In Ivory Coast, fierce fighting in a suburb of the capital, Abidjan, and other clashes have blocked access for humanitarian organizations and brought the country perilously close to all-out civil war, said officials with the United Nations' high commissioner for refugees. They reported that thousands of people had been displaced and were fleeing into neighboring Liberia.

At the same time, the officials voiced concern for thousands of “refugees, asylum seekers and irregular migrants still inside Libya and in circumstances of considerable danger.” The agency has issued a joint appeal with the International Organization for Migration for a massive humanitarian evacuation of people fleeing Libya into Tunisia.

“The world needs to address this moment,” said Jolie, whom officials said was speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she has been on a low-profile two-day visit. “We have to give people safe passage, evacuation if needed, and ensure they have asylum. We don't want to look back and find their deaths are on our hands."

-- Ann M. Simmons