She may be an Academy Award-winning actress, but no Hollywood role is as significant as the one she has off the screen. Over the years, Angelina Jolie Pitt has served in various capacities for the United Nations, previously as a Goodwill Ambassador and currently as a UNHCR Special Envoy for refugee matters. As an expert on refugee issues, the humanitarian has spoken out about the current refugee crisis in Europe. Jolie Pitt wrote an op-ed on the refugee crisis for the U.K.'s The Times, and her words are powerful while her insight is absolutely on point. Policy makers, take note.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are currently fleeing impoverished, war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa in hopes of asylum in Europe. The mounting crisis has EU leaders scrambling to draft refugee acceptance policies to mitigate the situation. Germany and Sweden have proposed a quota system that will redistribute refugees throughout the EU's 28 states; some countries supported this measure, while others have vehemently objected. Some countries have acted wholly unsympathetically to the refugees' plight — Hungary has fast-tracked plans to build a border fence while Denmark has posted ad campaigns to discourage refugees from entering.
This kind of intolerance cannot stand, Jolie Pitt says. During her 14 years with the U.N., she has seen firsthand the kind of hardship that drives these people to flee. In 2012, Jolie Pitt was appointed as the Special Envoy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, a role that allows her to work closely with decision makers on how to help displaced refugees.
Her latest contribution is a moving op-ed in The Times titled "Don't Blame Refugees For Seeking a Better Life," which she co-wrote with Arminka Helic, a Bosnian-born former refugee, foreign policy expert, and member of the House of Lords. Here are eight quotes from Jolie Pitt and Helic's piece that are completely on point about the refugee crisis.
The Level Of Adversity Leaves Refugees Little Choice
"It should come as no surprise that people who have endured years of war, or who have been living in refugee camps on dwindling rations, are taking matters into their own hands. How many of us could honestly say that in their shoes we would not do the same, confronted by fear, lack of hope, and a glaring lack of international political will to end the conflict."
To any person — or nation — who coldly dismisses refugees, Jolie Pitt reminds the public that they had little choice and asks the world to step inside their shoes.
Feeling Compassion Is Not Enough
"[The global refugee crisis] requires us to use not just our hearts but also our heads and not just aid but also diplomacy, and to focus our efforts not just this year, but for years to come."
Jolie Pitt asserts that it's not enough to feel compassion, and merely providing aid is not adequate either. World leaders need to implement long-term policies that will not only mitigate the current crisis, but continue to tackle future displacement.
Location Has Nothing To Do With Responsibility
"We must face some hard truths. The first is that the responsibility to help is not determined by the accident of geography but by adherence to universal human rights and values."
This is a keen point. Europe should not feel the urge to help just because they are physically situated in the middle of the crisis, and nations like America, Canada, and Australia should not sit back idly just because they are not physically affected.
Governments Must Complete The Integration Process At Home
"There is no question that the scale of the current refugee flow into Europe poses political, social, economic and security challenges for EU countries. ... It places a particular responsibility on governments to find the resources to deal with the domestic implications and to help refugees to integrate."
The job doesn't end with accepting the refugees into your country; it ends when the displaced are fully integrated and safely coexisting with the country's native residents.
Any Reason For Fleeing Is An Urgent One
"At this moment of emergency, we should be conscious of the distinction between economic migrants, who are trying to escape extreme poverty, and refugees who are fleeing an immediate threat to their lives. All people on the move in these tragic circumstances must have their human rights and dignity respected and their needs understood and addressed. We should not stigmatise anyone for the aspiration to a better life."
While some refugees might require extra protection, it does not mean they're prioritized over any other group.
We Must Tackle The Issue At Its Roots
"However much we welcome refugees on our shores, the problem will grow so long as the conflict in Syria continues. We cannot donate our way out of the crisis, we cannot solve it simply by taking in refugees, we have to find a diplomatic route to end the conflict."
To truly curb the global crisis, governments must go to the root of the problem and resolve the instability through diplomacy.
Governmental Flaws Have Led Us Here
"We should see this for what it is — part of a wider crisis in global governance. ... It is time to look for long-term solutions and to recognise that governments, not refugees, have to provide the answer."
Ultimately, the reason Europe is being met with hundreds of thousands of refugees now is due to deficiencies in foreign policy.
Our Response Defines Us
"This is not the first refugee crisis we have faced, and nor will it be the last. ... The way we respond now will confirm what kind of countries we are, the depth of our humanity and the strength of our democracies."
Jolie Pitt offers a crucial reminder: similar crises have arisen throughout history and they have shaped the development of entire nations. Now is the time to step up.