Angelina Jolie is leaving her mark on the world! The actress — who is known for her passionate philanthropic work — is currently on a three-day visit to Peru as a Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR). Peru has become a host country for thousands of Venezuelans who are seeking refugee status, and Angelina has made it her mission to assess the humanitarian needs of the refugees and asylum seekers as well as possible solutions to the country’s crisis. During her visit, Angelina has met with migrants, refugees, and representatives of the government of Peru, including Peruvian Foreign Minister Néstor Popolizio.
In the exclusive video and photos provided by the UNHCR, Angelina is shown meeting a dance group called Inyectando Kultura (Injecting Culture) in Lima. The youth group was forced out of their homes in Venezuela and now support their families back home with the money they earn through dancing at street lights. The dancers have also built spaces in Peru where Venezuelans can visit to heal and move on.
Angelina gave a press conference with Néstor on Tuesday, during which she discussed the crisis Venezuelans are facing and their dreams of living better lives. “This region is facing one of the largest mass migrations in its history. The crisis is all the more shocking for being predictable and preventable,” Angelina said. “Every Venezuelan I met described the situation in their country as desperate. I heard stories of people dying because of a lack of medical care and medicine: cancer patients whose chemotherapy was abruptly stopped, diabetes sufferers without access to insulin, children without basic antibiotics, people starving, and tragic accounts of violence and persecution.”
She then explained how none of the people she met want charity. Instead, they want “an opportunity to help themselves.” “I met a man who, until a few months ago, was a lawyer in Venezuela. He now is grateful for a small job in a t-shirt factory. Like many others, his only aim is to be able to send a few dollars home so his children can eat,” she explained. “The message that I heard consistently was: ‘We didn’t want to leave; we had to leave.’ After having spoken to so many people, it is clear to me that this is not movement by choice.”
“The message that I heard consistently was: ‘We didn’t want to leave; we had to leave.'”
The actress also highlighted the difference between a refugee and an economic migrant. “There is justified public concern about this unprecedented movement of people across borders internationally. And a perception that the distinction between refugees and economic migrants, enshrined in international law, is being blurred,” Angelina explained. “Whereas economic migrants choose to move, often for very understandable reasons, refugees face an immediate threat to life and cannot return home safely, and their protection becomes a shared international responsibility.”
“At a time when fundamental principles are being questioned, it is more important than ever that we have the systems and resources in place to identify people with genuine refugee and asylum claims, and to make sure that they have the support that they need. It is crucial to reinforce the rule of law, respect for human rights, international protection, and asylum systems,” she continued. “Most of all, wherever we live, we need our governments to do more to address the conflict and insecurity that is creating refugees so that people can return to their countries. In my experience, the vast majority of refugees want to do just that: they want to return home. I have been deeply touched by the dignity and strength of the Venezuelan refugees I have met on this visit and by the warmth and generosity of the Peruvian people.”
Angelina told POPSUGAR that “for those who want to help, the best thing to do is educate yourself on the issues and talk about them with others.” “Tracking the movements of people helps me to understand geopolitics and current conflicts,” she explained. “The number of people displaced worldwide continues to increase; it now stands at 68.5 million people. One person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution.”
After years of serving as a Goodwill Ambassador, Angelina was appointed the Special Envoy for the UNHCR back in 2012. Through her role, she’s visited many refugee camps around the world, including those in Syria, Jordan, Thailand, and Iraq, and she has assisted in finding solutions for people forced to flee their homes. If you would like more information, check out the UNHCR page.