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Statement by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie in Lima, Peru

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Statement by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie in Lima, Peru

23 October 2018
UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie (right) and Peruvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nestor Popolizio during a press conference in Lima, Peru on October 23, 2018.

Buenos días,

I am very grateful to President Vizcarra for receiving me this morning, and for the talks we have just had. Thank you Minister Popolizo very much for your work and for your words.

I have come to Peru to witness the humanitarian situation for those fleeing Venezuela.

I spent the last two days in Lima and at the border in Tumbes, where thousands of Venezuelans are entering on a daily basis.

This region is facing one of the largest mass migrations in its history. The crisis is all the more shocking for being predictable and preventable.

Every Venezuelan I met described the situation in their country as desperate.

I heard stories of people dying because of a lack of medical care and medicine: cancer patients whose chemotherapy was abruptly stopped, diabetes sufferers without access to insulin, children without basic antibiotics, people starving, and tragic accounts of violence and persecution.

None of the Venezuelans I met want charity. They want an opportunity to help themselves.

I met a man who, until a few months ago, was a lawyer in Venezuela. He now is grateful for a small job in a t-shirt factory. Like many others, his only aim is to be able to send a few dollars home so his children can eat.

The message that I heard consistently was, “we didn’t want to leave, we had to leave.”

After having spoken to so many people, it is clear to me that this is not movement by choice.

The Venezuelans I met did not go north to the US, but traveled south to Peru. Many have gone to Colombia and Ecuador, also very generous countries at this crucial time.

As in nearly every displacement crisis, the countries that have fewer resources are being asked to do the most. I want to thank the people of Peru for their generous and resilient response to this difficult situation.

I told President Vizcarra how much UNHCR appreciates the steps Peru has taken, to help Venezuelans have legal status and access to basic services. And we discussed the regional efforts being carried out in the Quito process, which is a first step towards a regional solution.  

We also spoke about what more the international community can and should be doing to support Peru and its neighbors.

The number of people displaced worldwide continues to increase, it now stands at 68.5 million people. One person is forcibly displaced every two seconds as a result of conflict or persecution.

There is justified public concern about this unprecedented movement of people across borders internationally. And a perception that the distinction between refugees and economic migrants, enshrined in international law, is being blurred.

Whereas economic migrants choose to move, often for very understandable reasons, refugees face an immediate threat to life and cannot return home safely and their protection becomes a shared international responsibility.

At a time when fundamental principles are being questioned, it is more important than ever that we have the systems and resources in place to identify people with genuine refugee and asylum claims, and to make sure that they have the support that they need. It is crucial to reinforce the rule of law, respect for human rights, international protection and asylum systems.

This applies as much to the situation in Mexico, where UNHCR is reinforcing its presence in the south, encouraging people to register and apply through legal means, where they can define their reasons for seeking asylum.

Most of all, wherever we live, we need our governments to do more to address the conflict and insecurity that is creating refugees, so that people can return to their countries. In my experience the vast majority of refugees want to do just that: they want to return home.
I have been deeply touched by the dignity and strength of the Venezuelan refugees I have met on this visit, and by the warmth and generosity of the Peruvian people.  

Thank you very much for welcoming me to your beautiful country.

Tu causa es mi causa.