US star Angelina Jolie visits refugee camp in Burkina Faso
Oscar-winning actor Angelina Jolie on Sunday visited a refugee camp in Burkina Faso sheltering thousands of Malians who have fled jihadist violence in the region.
Jolie visited the camp at Goudebou, in the northeast of the landlocked west African country, as part of her role as an ambassador for the UN refugee organisation, the UNHCR.
Jolie arrived by helicopter accompanied by Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Alpha Barry for a ceremony to mark World Refugee Day.
“I have marked this day every year for 20 years with refugees in different countries,” she said after her visit.
“I have never been as worried about the state of displacement globally as I am today,” she added.
“The truth is we are not doing half of what we could and should to find solutions to enable refugees to return home — or to support host countries, like Burkina Faso, coping for years with a fraction of the humanitarian aid needed to provide basic support and protection.”
An attack in March last year forced some 9,000 refugees, sheltering there despite previous raids, to flee — and caused its de facto closure.
Since December, the Burkinabe authorities and the UNHCR have been relocating the refugees there, having stepped up security at the camp.
There are now more soldiers posted at a new barracks and increased patrols.
Between December and July, nearly 11,000 people from towns in Burkina Faso’s north have returned to Goudebou, said the UNHCR.
“The refugees are battered because the security situation is deteriorating day by day despite the efforts by the Burkinabe authorities, their partners and the defence and security forces in the Sahel region,” said Wanadine ag Mohamed, the representative for the Goudebou refugees.
He pointed to the June 4-5 attack on the northeast village of Solhan where gunmen killed at least 132 people, according to the Burkinabe authorities.
Since 2012, around 22,000 refugees of various nationalities have found refuge in Burkina Faso, including many Malians fleeing the abuses of jihadist groups in northern and central Mali.
But Burkina has in turn become the target of attacks by Al-Qaeda- and Islamic State-linked jihadists since 2015 which have left more than 1,400 dead and forced a million people to flee their homes.