The video above, produced by UNHCR, the U.N.'s refugee agency, features a number of famous actors, all urging compassion and understanding for the plight facing the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers risking the dangerous journey to Europe. The celebrities include Cate Blanchett, Colin Firth, Patrick Stewart and Indian Bollywood star John Abraham, among others.
They emphasize a point made repeatedly by UNHCR about the distinction between refugees — whom the agency believes comprise the majority of the current arrivals — and migrants. Migrants move out of choice to improve their lives but could return home and exist without duress or threat. Refugees, as the celebrities in the video explain, don't have that luxury.
Here's a more comprehensive explanation from UNHCR:
Migrants choose to move not because of a direct threat of persecution or death, but mainly to improve their lives by finding work, or in some cases for education, family reunion, or other reasons. Unlike refugees who cannot safely return home, migrants face no such impediment to return. If they choose to return home, they will continue to receive the protection of their government...Refugees are persons fleeing armed conflict or persecution. There were 19.5 million of them worldwide at the end of 2014. Their situation is often so perilous and intolerable that they cross national borders to seek safety in nearby countries, and thus become internationally recognized as "refugees" with access to assistance from States, UNHCR, and other organizations. They are so recognized precisely because it is too dangerous for them to return home, and they need sanctuary elsewhere. These are people for whom denial of asylum has potentially deadly consequences.
The status of refugees and their specific rights are codified in international law, and ought to be honored by governments, no matter how skeptical or xenophobic their political elites or publics may be.
"We need to treat all human beings," intones actor Patrick Stewart, "refugee or migrant, with respect and dignity."