Global leaders must come together to tackle a ‘once-in-a-generation’ migrant crisis, said UN special envoy Angelina Jolie, or risk greater instability that could drive more refugees to Europe.
The United Nations and the declaration of human rights were among the world-changing outcomes of the global refugee crisis after World War Two, Jolie said, adding that the international community is now at a similar pivotal moment.
“I believe this is again that once-in-a-generation moment when nations have to pull together,” the Hollywood actress and director told the BBC.
“How we respond will determine whether we create a more stable world, or face decades of far greater instability.”
Jolie said inaction or uncoordinated efforts that did not address the underlying causes of the crisis would only lead to more conflict and displacement.
“If these things continue to happen, there will be further displacement and more people on the borders of Europe and elsewhere,” she said.
Europe is grappling with its largest migration wave since World War Two, as a traditional flow of migrants from Africa is compounded by refugees fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and South Asia.
The UN refugee agency has said the number of people forcibly displaced worldwide was likely to have “far surpassed” a record 60 million in 2015, including 20 million refugees, driven by the Syrian war and other drawn-out conflicts.
The Oscar-winning actress argued against closing borders to refugees and migrants.
“If your neighbour’s house is on fire you are not safe if you lock your doors. Isolationism is not strength,” she said.
European Union leaders, alarmed by an influx of one million refugees and migrants into the bloc of 500 million people, struck an accord with Turkey in March that would grant Ankara more money to keep Syrian refugees on its territory.
The deal sealed off the main route by which a million migrants crossed the Aegean into Greece last year, but some believe new routes will develop through Bulgaria or Albania as Mediterranean crossings to Italy from Libya resume.
Jolie, special envoy for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said she was disappointed in some politicians for fear-mongering and a “race to the bottom” approach to the refugee crisis.
She said it has led to “countries competing to be the toughest, in the hope of protecting themselves whatever the cost… and despite their international responsibilities.”
When asked about Republican Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign, Jolie said it was divisive.
“America is built on freedom of religion so it’s hard to hear that this is coming from someone who is pressing to be president.”