Angelina Jolie has weighed in on the migrant boat disaster that occurred in the waters off Greece on Wednesday. The boat was carrying approximately 750 people and capsized in a deep part of the Mediterranean Sea. 78 deaths have been recorded thus far, but it is feared that the death toll is much higher.
The American actress, filmmaker, humanitarian, and self-described “refugee advocate” said that she was “sickened” by the news of the migrant boat disaster. She provided her thoughts on the incident.
Jolie is well known for her humanitarian activism and advocacy work. She was the Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) until 2022).
Angelina Jolie “sickened” by migrant boat disaster
“I knew a man who lost his wife and daughter after holding on to their bodies for hours trying to keep them alive. I asked why they would get on such a crowded boat if it looked dangerous? And why risk it in the first place?” Jolie said.
“He spoke of years staying in a war zone trying to help as a doctor,” she continued. “Then he took his family away from the war to a border country where they faced discrimination. They were unable to work, their daughter couldn’t go to school. The wife was regularly harassed, and begged him to arrange for them to get on a boat.”
Jolie then explained how the man and his family had worked to save up enough for a boat ticket. However, when they finally earnt enough and were about to embark on the treacherous journey, they found that the boat was overcrowded. The smuggler who had arranged for their journey prevented them from leaving and they were forced to get on the boat, which subsequently resulted in tragedy.
“The boat made it part of the way,” explained the actress. “He said it was hard to breathe. Everyone was frightened. Then another boat emerged and rammed into them. They all screamed. The boat began to sink. He spent hours holding on to his wife and daughter. Unable to keep them afloat, he lost them.”
The American actress and activist retold the story in an effort to illustrate her perspective on what the root causes are for migrants to embark on overcrowded boats in an attempt to cross the Mediterranean.
“He is not a bad person or a bad parent. He had no options,” she opined.
“One of the myths is that this comes from a desire for a better life. That undermines the very real horrors people are living daily. And what this route represents is a last desperate attempt to keep your family safe,” Jolie explained.
“The focus should be why, in the first place, refugees and other people on the move are unable to be home and what could be done to stabilize, and make trade and relations more stable so they can live and thrive at home,” concluded the actress.