Wherever Angelina Jolie goes, adoring fans will wait just to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood star.
Like in Athens, Greece, where the actor was greeted by crowds on March 16, 2016.
But the families in the photo above couldn’t be further away from the bright lights of Hollywood (or the comforts of home, for that matter). They’re refugees staying in Greece’s port of Piraeus.
Jolie, a UNHCR special envoy, dropped by the port on Wednesday to greet the refugees, most of whom fled Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan due to war.
Jolie is also meeting with leaders there to reiterate the humanitarian group’s commitment in helping Greece — where about 85% of all the Middle East’s refugees have poured into Europe — to reinforce and expand resettlement efforts.
Her visit came just a day after a rainy trip to Lebanon, where she gave an emotional speech pleading for the world to do more to alleviate the refugee crisis.
“Every Syrian refugee I have spoken to on this visit, without exception, talked of their desire to return home when the war is over and it is safe for them to do so,” she said. “Not with resignation, but with the light in their eyes of people dreaming of being reunited with the country that they love.“
In recent years, Jolie has become one of the most visible figures demanding action on the Syrian refugee crisis. Like in 2007, when she visited a camp in Damascus, where 1,200 people who’d been torn away from their communities were staying.
Or when she met with an elderly woman, who was trapped inside an Iraqi camp, unable to leave due to violence in neighboring regions.
In 2012, Jolie visited victims of war near the Syria-Jordan border.
At that time, more than 250,000 people had fled Syria due to conflict — now, that figure’s closer to 4.8 million.
Jolie met with displaced families in Khanke last January, too, a few months before giving them a voice on the world stage at the UN.
“In 2011, the Syrian refugees I met were full of hope,” Jolie said in a speech in front of the UN Security Council in April 2015 in New York City. “They said ‘please, tell people what is happening to us,’ trusting that the truth alone would guarantee international action.”
“When I returned, hope was turning into anger: the anger of the man who held his baby up to me, asking, ‘Is this a terrorist? Is my son a terrorist?’ On my last visit in February, anger had subsided into resignation, misery and the bitter question, ‘Why are we, the Syrian people, not worth saving?’”
And throughout all of these travels, she’s had a special place in her heart for those most vulnerable in times of war: children.
Her most recent visit with refugees, however, comes at an especially critical time.
A summit is underway this week in Brussels, with the European Union and Turkey hoping to finalize a resettlement strategy in the region by March 18.
The deal, however, hasn’t been without controversy, as it could send thousands of Syrians who came to Greece unlawfully back to Turkey in exchange for “genuine” asylum seekers — a move some protesters say is both illegal and immoral, given international law regarding refugees.
What’s more, ISIS — the terror group that’s uprooted millions of families now seeking refuge in Europe — is officially considered responsible for genocide, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on March 17.
The categorization reflects a grave situation unfolding where Jolie is working on the ground.
During this pivotal week, Jolie met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in hopes of making sure helping refugees remains a top priority.
“I am here to reinforce efforts by UNHCR and the Greek government to step up the emergency response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation,” Jolie said in a press release. “I look forward to meeting authorities, partners and volunteers working on the ground to improve conditions and ensure the vulnerable are protected.”
Jolie may have a bigger megaphone than you when it comes to promoting action, but you shouldn’t feel hopeless.
There are plenty of ways everyday people can fight for refugees, from spreading critical information on the crisis through social media channels, to lending a hand as a volunteer, or donating funds for support. Learn more about ways you can help here.