Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Supercafone of the Day: Angelina Jolie

The second ever Supercafone of the Day (SOTD) accolade goes to UN envoy and spokes-star Angelina Jolie. 
In Lampedusa. 

This past weekend the star traveled to Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island off the coast of Sicily that has been inundated by refugees fleeing the political unrest in Tunisia and Libya. Jolie has worked with the UN on refugee issues since 2001. "You go to these places and you realise what life's really about and what people are really going through. These people are my heroes," she has said of her work with refugees.

UN refugee chief Antonio Guterres and Jolie thanked the residents of Lampedusa for welcoming the migrants and urged Europe to keep its doors open. More than 41,000 migrants have reached Lampedusa since the start of the year, including over 1,600 last weekend.

Migrants cross in overcrowded boats
Jolie toured the refugee centers, visiting with its residents. Many told her about their hardships back home that made crossing the Mediterranean in tiny, overcrowded boats the only option. One woman recounted how she miscarried while in one of those boats.  The Catholic relief organization Sant Egidio estimates that nearly 2,000 migrants fleeing unrest in north and sub-Saharan Africa have drowned while crossing the Mediterranean so far this year.

He says the debate raging in Europe about immigration "doesn't correspond to the reality" given that the number of migrants who have actually arrived is tiny compared to the numbers who have gone elsewhere.

Italy has a complex relationship with immigration. The Italian economy, saddled with an aging population in need of care, is thirsty for new workers. Politically and culturally, Italy struggles to deal with such an influx of foreigners. To compound difficulties, in the past year, Frontex, the EU agency in charge of external border controls, estimates that Italy is the number one point of entry for illegal immigrants to Europe this year. The agency reported a total of about 33,000 migrants were detected trying to enter the 27-nation bloc in the first three months of the year, more than double the figure for the same period of 2010. Over two-thirds of this number - 22,600 people - were found at Italy's borders.

Italy gets the brunt of migration flows to Europe.

Currently, EU law requires that immigrants are processed by the country of entry before they may pass through to other EU countries. Consequently, the volume of immigrants that arrive in Italy saddles the country's bureaucracy with what many conservative Italian politicians call and unfair, undue burden. 

June 20 is World Refugee Day. In its honor, Jolie also recorded a promotional video.

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