“The figures are difficult to relate to and you feel powerless,” confesses Hollywood actress and UNHCR goodwill ambassador, Cate Blanchett in a powerfully honest interview about the plight of Syrian refugees.
The Australian actress was forlorn as she talked about her trip to the Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, during an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Speaking about the refugee crisis she emphasised: “This is a middle class problem. The parents of these children that I met, they were architects, they were doctors, they were pharmacists, they were lawyers…”
Discussing her role as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador she spoke about how meeting the refugees helped her connect to their stories. “I felt compelled to go on that journey with them… seeing a face makes the similarities between everyone really apparent,” she said.
Keen to point out that the refugees are not scroungers trying to sponge off the countries in which they have been forced to camp, she said: “These people are refugees, not immigrants. There’s a difference. If you’re migrating somewhere you have time to prepare for your exit and plan your entry somewhere. But, if you’re a refugee you’re fleeing from a terrifying situation.”
However, impressed by the resilience of the people she met in camp, she added: “These people have fortitude and pride. One woman summoned me over and asked me to ‘tell people Syria is full of strong women who want re-build Syria’.
“They don’t want to be in that camp. They have pride. They don’t want to settle in Europe, they want to go back home but they can’t because it’s not safe… These are citizens who are fleeing rape and torture. They aren’t on one side or another, they are victims.”
Talking about a play she watched at the Azraq refugee camp performed by children, she said: “[Acting] is a way to start to deal with the intense trauma that they have experienced… I think it actually gives them an outlet to say what is concerning them most.”
Watch Cate Blanchett talk about the Syrian refugee crisis:
During her interview, Blanchett was also asked about gender equality. While the question was more aimed at the pay gap in Hollywood wages, the goodwill ambassador was quick to turn the conversation to the inequality in the world.
“There are 27 countries around the world that don’t allow equality in gender in their laws so women can’t confer a nationality for their children so you have these children, simply because of their gender – their mum not having that equality – they don’t have passports, don’t have access to education…. One begins to wonder want century we are living in.”
Watch Cate Blanchett talk about gender equality: