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British actor and producer Theo James has been a high-profile supporter of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, since 2016. Theo has supported UNHCR’s work both at home and abroad, attending fundraisers, engaging in advocacy efforts, and visiting refugees in Greece and Jordan.
Theo’s connection to the refugee experience extends to a personal level. His grandfather, Dr Nicholas Taptiklis, was forced to flee Greece during the Second World War, making his way by boat and then overland through Turkey to Damascus, Syria.
When the Second World War ended, Dr Taptiklis worked in Gottingen, Germany, with the organization that was the precursor to the UN Refugee Agency, fighting typhoid and tuberculosis in refugee camps.
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Theo’s involvement with UNHCR
Theo travelled to Jordan with UNHCR in July 2023, where he visited the urban areas of Amman and witnessed the realities of the Azraq Refugee Camp.
Jordan hosts the second-highest share of refugees per capita worldwide, but despite its efforts to provide health care, education, and employment for refugees, Jordan cannot bear the brunt of this cost alone. Sustained funding for refugees in Jordan is desperately needed to avoid a humanitarian crisis.
Reflecting on his trip, Theo said, "The scars of war are not always visible, but there is also an enormous sustained impact. For many, despair is setting in, as they have lost their jobs and cannot provide for their families; others have taken on extremely high debts and face the threat of being evicted. It is as if they were carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. All this while trying to cope with the trauma of war and loss".
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Earlier in 2023, Theo joined countless other celebrities in highlighting his support for UNHCR and the refugee plight by wearing a blue ribbon at the Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles, California.
In 2019, Theo lent his acting talents to UNHCR and provided the voiceover for UNHCR’s High-Level Segment on Statelessness, a forum which gave UN Member States the opportunity to highlight key achievements made to address statelessness worldwide since the launch of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.
As a British national, Theo has also been involved in UNHCR efforts closer to home. In 2018, Theo supported UNHCR’s Families Together campaign alongside UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors David Morrissey and Neil Gaiman. Theo signed an open letter calling for MPs to attend the Refugees Family Reunion Bill and advocate for its implementation to allow child refugees a route to reunite with their parents.
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In December 2017, Theo travelled to Strasbourg to reunite with Housam, a refugee he met 18 months prior in a refugee camp in Lakadikia, Greece.
Housam is one of the 32,000 refugees who have been relocated as part of the EU’s emergency relocation scheme that aims to share responsibility for the refugee crisis.
The scars of war are not always visible, but there is also an enormous sustained impact.
In 2016, Theo travelled to Greece on his first mission with UNHCR to learn more about its activities in the country and the reality of the situation for refugees. There were over 170,000 new arrivals of refugees into Greece during 2016 alone, the year of Theo’s visit.
The experience of one teenage refugee struck a particular chord in Theo, who shared, “We met Rafi in the Alexandria emergency reception site in Northern Greece. Rafi is a bright and intelligent boy of 17 who had spent the last three years seeking asylum with his family. Despite having lost much of the bone in his right elbow and his left knee from a bomb blast in Syria, he radiated positivity. Of course, he felt frustrated at times, but he looked to the future with hope and resilience. He wants to live in France because he learnt some French in school and enjoys the language. I hope he gets there.”
Theo James’ work as a high-profile supporter
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