Angelina Jolie Pitt on the Syrian Refugee Crisis: 'We Need to Get On Top of This Chaotic Situation'

"With 60 million refugees worldwide, people are running out of safe places to which to run," the actress and activist tells PEOPLE

Photo: Courtesy UNHCR

Angelina Jolie Pitt is continuing her humanitarian efforts abroad and addressing the growing global refugee crisis.

The star recently visited Lebanon and Greece on behalf of the United Nations, meeting with both countries’ respective prime ministers to discuss how the influx of refugees is affecting their nations.

“The crisis we see today is the result of open-ended conflicts around the world. From Afghanistan to Darfur and Somalia, these are wars that continue every day, long after they have fallen from the headlines,” Jolie Pitt says in an exclusive statement to PEOPLE.

“Now, with 60 million refugees worldwide, people are running out of safe places to which to run. That is why we are seeing the movement of refugees desperate to get into Europe or any other place of safety. We need to get on top of this chaotic situation, working to end the conflicts that are creating refugees and ensuring that countries like Greece and Turkey have the means to identify and assist people with a genuine claim for asylum and take the necessary steps urgently to improve their asylum systems,” she says.

For more on Jolie Pitt’s trip, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE.

While visiting Lebanon, Jolie Pitt marked the 5th anniversary of the Syrian conflict and visited a 13-year-old girl named Hala, with whom she’s developed a personal relationship.

Hala and Jolie Pitt first met in 2014, when Hala and her siblings were newly arrived refugees from Syria. The actress and director continues to stay in close contact with the family (pictured above), and even brought her daughter Shiloh to meet with them last summer.

“So many refugees are children,” Jolie Pitt previously told PEOPLE. “I’ve often heard them say that the most painful thing is not that they have lost their homes – it is that they have lost their friends.”

In Greece, she met with officials to assess the humanitarian situation and to explore the role the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) could play in support of the Greek government and the European Union. While Lebanon has received an influx of mostly displaced Syrians, Greece has seen a mix of refugees from both Syria and Afghanistan, as well as migrants from other countries.

In a call for leaders around the world to take action last week, Jolie Pitt called the response to the ongoing crisis “tragic and shameful.”

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