Game of Thrones stars urge EU action to help stranded Syrian refugees
Liam Cunningham, Maisie Williams and Lena Headey visit Syrian refugees on Lesbos Picture: Tara Todras-Whitehill/IRC
In the fictional world of Westeros, they are strong-willed, tough characters. But on the all-too-real island of Lesbos, the stars of TV’s Game of Thrones were humbled and moved by the plight of refugees.
Maisie Williams, Lena Headey and Liam Cunningham spent several days with Syrian refugees in Greece – including children who are deprived of an education.
The three actors, who were there on behalf of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), called on European leaders to do more to help the 57,000 refugees stranded in Greece because of a European Union deal which means they cannot move on to other countries without first applying for asylum.
Maisie – who plays Arya in the global television hit series – said: “For me it is about the children…children with so much potential, so many hopes and dreams.
In Greece @Maisie_Williams meets 13yo Haya who dreams of being an actor & performed 3 plays at @theIRC safe space pic.twitter.com/smly5CkjdY
— Kathleen Prior (@KathleenAPrior) June 30, 2016
“Where is the humanity that makes it acceptable for them to languish in refugee camps – in Europe?”
Maisie also met a young Syrian girl who just wants to live out her dream of becoming an actor.
She added: “I also met a 21-year-old girl who was headed for university to do amazing things in biology and now she’s had all of that taken away from her – and you are worried she wants to come and take from your country. She is just a girl.”
Lena (Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones) met a young Syrian woman who had travelled with three children under the age of 11. Her husband, who has cancer, is in Germany.
As their IRC trip comes to an end, @Maisie_Williams @IAMLenaHeadey @liamcunningham1 say “This is only the beginning” pic.twitter.com/okyaJMxEEB
— IRC Intl Rescue Comm (@theIRC) July 1, 2016
She has not seen him for 18 months and it may be another six months before the family are reunited because the process is slow and drawn-out.
Lena said: “These smart, hardworking people want to go home. They want to return to their communities and to their neighbourhoods.
“They want their children to continue their education. They want to continue their university and they are stuck. They’re stuck. And they’re unbelievably sad. Understandably. We can do better for them. We must do better for them.”
For many refugees, Lesbos is where they first come ashore in Europe.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits Lesbos last month
Liam, who plays Davis Seaworth, said: “This is not an earthquake, this is not a tidal wave. This is a man-made crisis. 57,000 stranded in Greece.
“Refugee camps in Europe? Is this truly the standard EU leaders want to set as the way to respond to the global refugee crisis?”
Earlier this year, the IRC teamed up with Game of Thrones to launch the multi-platform Rescue Has No Boundaries campaign to bring attention to the global refugee crisis and raise emergency funds to help rescue the millions of people displaced by conflict and natural disaster.
Stars of the show recorded a video on behalf of the IRC in March.
As well as the refugees who have fled to Europe, more than than 4.7 million Syrians have moved to neighbouring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.
Theirworld – the children’s charity behind A World at School – is working with the Lebanese government to get Syrian children into double-shift schools, where refugees and local students share classrooms.
Theirworld has also called on the EU to urgently release funds to help Turkey get 400,000 out-of-school Syrian refugees into education before the academic year begins in less than 100 days.
The number of forcibly displaced people is at an all-time high of 65.3 million, according to figures up to the end of 2015 released last month by the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
That is up from 59.5 million the year before. The new total includes 21.3 million refugees – about half of them under the age of 18 – 40.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) and 3.2 million in industrialised countries awaiting decision on asylum.