Angelina Jolie urges Europe to prioritise refugees over economic migrants

The actress and Baroness Arminka Helic are urging governments to think with their heads in order to achieve a long-last solution to the refugee crisis 

Heather Saul
Monday 07 September 2015 11:59

Angelina Jolie and Baroness Arminka Helic have called for refugees fleeing war and persecution to be prioritised over economic migrants as Europe faces the biggest refugee crisis to hit its shores since the Second World War.

Jolie, an actress and activist, is special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Helic is a member of the House of Lords and a former refugee, having escaped the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s. She also served as the special advisor to the former Foreign Secretary, William Hague.

In a jointly written comment piece for The Times, Jolie and Helic urged governments to recognise the humanitarian responsibility they have with the thousands of displaced men, women and children fleeing countries ravaged by war for Europe.

A petition launched by The Independent calling on the British Government to accept its fair share of refugees has been signed over 360,000 times. The petition was launched after the devastating picture of Syrian toddler Alyan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach emerged, shocking thousands into action.

Ten thousand refugees reached Munich on Sunday and were greeted with welcome signs, food, water and toys upon their arrival.

Refugees cheer as they arrive at the main train station in Munich, Germany, 06 September 2015

Helic and Jolie said it was important to remember the distinction between economic migrants trying to escape lives of extreme poverty, and refugees who are fleeing an immediate threat to their lives in this time of emergency.

They wrote: “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.

“But refugees are facing an immediate need to be saved from persecution and death and their rights are defined in international law. That is why effective reception and screening are so important, to enable claims to be analysed and protection extended to those who need it.”

Dortmund supporters hold a banner welcoming refugees to Germany

Jolie and Helic called for leaders to use their heads as well as their hearts in order to create a forward thinking, long-lasting plan to tackle the global crisis. They stressed that the refugee crisis must be tackled at the source of the problem, warning that Europe cannot simply “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," they wrote.

The pair said their plight reflects the wider issues with global governance, with over 60 million people being displaced by international crisis over the past decade.

“It is unsustainable and beyond what international humanitarian organisations can manage. It is driven by a systemic failure to resolve conflicts. Nothing tells us more about the state of the world than the movement of people across borders. It is time to look for long-term solutions and to recognise that governments, not refugees, have to provide the answer.”

Jolie joins Pope Francis, Bob Geldof and many other prominent figures making impassioned pleas to leaders to support refugees after they arrive in Europe.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments