Actress and United Nations special envoy Angelina Jolie visited refugees fleeing Venezuela to Colombia, praising them as the “strongest people in the world.”
She pleaded Saturday for international aid for people leaving the chaos and hardship of Venezuela, particularly for the children.
“I’ve seen for myself the strain being placed on the schools and hospitals and local services, but I have also seen the inspiring humanity being shown by local communities,” said Jolie, a special envoy for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She called such help the “core of what it is to be human.”
She characterized the crisis as a “life and death situation for millions of Venezuelans.”
The exodus from Venezuela of close to 4 million people is the largest and fastest movement of people in Latin America’s recent history, according to the U.N. agency. Nearly 1.3 million Venezuelans are now living in Colombia. The sudden influx of desperate refugees there, and in Peru and Ecuador, is straining those nations’ emergency resources.
Jolie is spending two days visiting the refugees. She met Saturday with Colombian President Ivan Duque in Cartagena and they discussed the “risk of statelessness for more than 20,000 Venezuelan children” whose basic citizenship rights could be in jeopardy in the chaos of flight, Reuters reported.
Duque said he hoped Jolie’s visit would help alert the world to the seriousness of the crisis.
Venezuela’s crumbling economy under President Nicolás Maduro has triggered a severe shortage of food, medicine, and medical and social services. The situation has become more dire since the Trump administration— which supports opposition leader Juan Guaidó — imposed sanctions on the country.
In remarks on the crisis, Jolie referred to a hardening of the heart to immigrants around the world in what could also be viewed as criticism of her own country.
She referred to “increasing talk of what individual governments are no longer prepared to do: whether that is to receive refugees or asylum seekers, or to contribute funding to U.N. operations and appeals.”
Jolie called such policies “naïve at best and duplicitous at worst to present these policies as if they were some kind of solution. When you neighbor’s house is on fire, you are not safe if you simply lock your door.”