Copyright 2004

[ April 29th 2004 ]

The plight of children separated from their asylum-seeking parents was highlighted by American actress Angelina Jolie this week in visits to three Arizona sites where they are detained by the United States. "Many of these children have survived tragedy so being separated from their families can only add to their suffering," said Jolie, 29, a goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency UNHCR and the star of the Lara Croft adventure films.

Tens of thousands of people, including 5000 children, are detained each year in the US while seeking asylum, UN chief spokesman Fred Eckhard said on Thursday. The UN agency opposes the detention of asylum seekers. But in the US and other countries where detention is allowed, it monitors the condition of those being held, particularly children.

Jolie visited the Southwest Key facility for unaccompanied children in Phoenix; a federal Department of Homeland Security holding facility for more then 300 men, and a private corrections facility that provides beds for women under a contract with the Homeland Security agency, UNHCR said. Among the individuals she visited on Sunday was a 12-year-old girl being held at Southwest Key and her mother, being detained at the Florence facility.

The two were caught at the US border and sent to separate facilities two months ago and have not seen each other since, UNHCR said. "The girl's mother sobbed on hearing that Jolie had visited her daughter and was relieved to hear she was healthy and being well looked after," the UN agency said.

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