Tuesday 23 January 2018

'Politics of fear' is making refugee crisis worse - Jolie

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, in 2012. Photo: Reuters
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie meets Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, in 2012. Photo: Reuters

Aine Fox in London

Concerns over uncontrolled migration have allowed a politics of fear to grow when it comes to the present-day refugee crisis, Angelina Jolie Pitt has warned.

The actress, who is special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) , gave a keynote address as part of a special day on the BBC dedicated to issues raised by the mass movement of people around the world.

The Oscar winner said the refugee crisis presents a "once-in-a-generation moment when nations have to pull together".

She said the responsibility to help refugees and deal with the issue is one for ordinary people as well as the authorities.

Speaking to an audience at the BBC radio theatre - which included schoolchildren, some of whom had experience of migration - she said: "This is a duty that falls on all of us."

Jolie said she recognised the fears of people who feel "angry" and "cheated" by the huge numbers crossing borders around the world, and said those concerns have eroded public confidence in the ability of institutions in power to deal with the issue.

UN envoy on the rights of migrants Francois Crepeau
UN envoy on the rights of migrants Francois Crepeau

She said: "It has given space to a false air of legitimacy to those who promote the politics of fear and separation.

"It has created the risk of a race to the bottom, with countries competing to be the toughest in the hope of protecting themselves, whatever the cost or challenge to their neighbours and despite their international responsibilities."

She went on to say she is "very disheartened" by the US response to the global migration crisis.

Jolie said the "number of conflicts and scale of displacement had grown so large", the system to protect refugees and and return them to their home countries was no longer functioning.She added that UN appeals were severely under-funded.

Jolie also referred to Republican US presidential contender Donald Trump, who suggested a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the USA.

Jolie said "America is built on people from around the world coming together for freedoms", adding "so it is hard to hear that this is coming from someone who's pressing to be an American president."

Jolie Pitt said German chancellor Angela Merkel's move to open her country's borders to refugees was a "beautiful thing and said something to the world", but warned there must be an order to how migration is handled so citizens of that country can understand what is happening.

The activist said the UK had faced darker times in the past and "risen from the ashes to build a stronger country" and can do so again - but only if there is proper leadership on the issue.

She said: "I mean it when I say it's not something that is an idea, it's something I believe we all know we must do because we are at that moment, we're really at a breaking point."

Meanwhile, a United Nations envoy for human rights has criticised the European Union's response to the refugee crisis as showing a "lack of vision," operating under legal ambiguity, and backing the detention of newly arrived migrants in Greece.

Envoy Francois Crepeau said the March agreement between the EU and Turkey to send back migrants reaching Europe required "much stronger legal instruments to ensure legal accountability."

Greece has been detaining migrants and refugees who arrived after March 20, while some 50,000 people are stranded in the country since European countries, including Austria and Balkan states, closed their borders to migrants earlier this year.

Mr Crepeau expressed concern that children were among those detained, and urged an immediate change in policy.

He spoke in Athens yesterday after visiting detention sites and migrant camps.

Irish Independent

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