Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Cate Blanchett calls out inhuman asylum policy

4 December 20230 comments

Actress Cate Blanchett has urged the European Union to adopt a more humanitarian approach to asylum policy.

In a speech to the European Parliament the goodwill ambassador for the UN refugee agency UNHCR said: “We need to come together to put people, to put our humanity back at the centre and the heart of asylum”.

“In ten years’ time, people will still be drowning on our shores unless something changes,” the Australian actress said, referencing the shipwreck near the island of Lampedusa that left more than 360 migrants dead in 2013.

“Complex situations require complex solutions. They require dialogue. They require collaboration, not soundbites or slogans. Finding sustainable solutions in countries of origin, transit and destination is the only way,” she said.

The two-time Oscar winner was speaking at the invitation of European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

The pair held a bilateral meeting before heading to the Parliament in Brussels, where Ms Blanchett spoke for more than 20 minutes to MEPs and the crowded gallery of visitors, who repeatedly interrupted her intervention with applause.

“Globally, forced displacement has now passed the grim milestone of 114 million people. Many of those caught up in this maelstrom have made unbelievably dangerous journeys in search of a place of safety,” she said.

“Addressing the challenges of forced displacement and mixed movements requires unity, international cooperation, resources and patient compassionate work to address the multiple and overlapping reasons that people move out of their countries.”

Citing testimonies of the refugees she has met across her trips as an ambassador, the Ms Blanchett called on lawmakers to put themselves in the shoes of those who flee “catastrophic experiences” in their homelands and risk their lives to reach a safer port, despite knowing their chances of survival are evidently dim.

Her calls for kindness and empathy took on a special meaning against the backdrop of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which she also mentioned.

“In the words of the poet Warsan Shire, no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark. You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless water is safer than the land,” she said.

Blanchett called on MEPs to use their power as public representatives to uphold the spirit of the 1951 Refugee Convention and refute “dangerous myths stoking fear and hostility”.

“As the representatives of the people of Europe, please remind your constituents that low and middle-income countries host the vast majority, nearly 90 per cent of all forcibly displaced people,” Ms Blanchett said.

Ms Blanchett denounced what she termed the “harmful” policy of “externalisation,” a term that describes the efforts made by Western countries to outsource their asylum responsibilities to other countries.

“As an Australian, I can tell you that we learnt the hard way, the devastating physical and mental torment the refugees experienced whilst being corralled offshore. The psychological damage to those guarding them, the billions of dollars of tax payers’ money wasted on a now discredited and largely abandoned approach,” Ms Blanchett said.