British actor, producer and model Theo James has been a High Profile Supporter of UNHCR since 2016. Theo has supported UNHCR’s work through visiting Greece and following the story of a Syrian refugee, as well as attending fundraising and advocacy events, and lending his talents to UNHCR projects. In 2019, he used his acting talents to provide the voiceover for a video for UNHCR’s High Level Segment on Statelessness, a forum which gave an opportunity for UN Member States to announce key achievements that have been made to address statelessness worldwide since UNHCR launched the #IBelong Campaign to End Statelessness.
Theo has a very personal story that connects him to the refugee situation. His Grandfather, Dr. Nicholas Taptiklis, fled Greece during the Second World War, making his way by boat and then overland through Turkey to Damascus, Syria. Immediately after the Second World War ended, Dr. Taptiklis worked in Gottingen, Germany with the organisation that was the precursor to the UN Refugee Agency, fighting typhoid and tuberculosis in the refugee camps.
Theo travelled to Greece on his first mission with UNHCR in 2016, to learn more about the work of UNHCR and the situation for refugees. There were over 170,000 new arrivals of refugees into Greece during 2016, the year of Theo’s visit, alone. Now in 2020 the humanitarian situation on the Greek Islands is dire, with over 150,000 displaced individuals living in terrible conditions on the islands, and the situation is only set to grow more unstable.
Theo said, “The mission with UNHCR felt deeply personal but more importantly it was eye opening. We are all aware of how complex and politically charged the refugee crisis in Greece is. But to meet these families, these fathers and mothers struggling in the midst of one of the greatest humanitarian crises since The Second World War, was beyond anything I had expected. These are people like you and me fleeing their country out of total necessity. The only other option for them is war and death. UNHCR’s work with its partners, the Greek government and its people is imperative to the millions of refugees and their legacy.”
Theo went onto say “We met Rafi in the Alexandreia 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.”
In December 2017 Theo travelled to Strasbourg to meet with one of the refugees whom he met in Greece, Housam. Theo had previously met with Housam in a refugee camp in Lakadikia, Greece, 18 months before. Housam is one of the 32,000 refugees who have been relocated as part of the EU’s emergency relocation scheme to share responsibility for the refugee crisis.