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Mandy Patinkin visits Sicily, Italy, calling on EU and US governments to welcome refugees

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With World Refugee Day on the horizon, Mandy Patinkin, star of Homeland and IRC Ambassador, urged government leaders to provide welcome to displaced people, and for host communities to provide measures to facilitate integration and cohesion amongst new arrivals and existing citizens, following a 3-day visit to Palermo, Italy with his wife, Kathryn Grody.

The majority of displaced people arriving in Europe are initially received by Italy, second only in asylum applications to Germany - despite the fact that the Mediterranean sea crossing remains the deadliest in the world. With EU law dictating that asylum claims must be made in the country of first arrival, Italy shoulders a disproportionate amount of the share - with the EU remaining in deadlock over the migration policy and responsibility-sharing. All the while, with recent policy changes amending the right of asylum-seekers to humanitarian protection, huge numbers of existing asylum claims mean there is backlog in processing new cases - leaving thousands living in limbo in reception centers.

While in Palermo, Mandy and Kathryn met with asylum-seeking families and unaccompanied children, as well as local Italian integration initiatives, including language training, education, and businesses run by refugees and their local hosts. The city of Palermo, a longtime host of migrants, has become a beacon of welcome in Italy, where mayor Leoluca Orlando has taken a stand against growing anti-refugee sentiment across the continent and displaced people are encouraged to integrate.

“This trip has been an education. The people we have met here in Palermo have shown us how they welcome displaced people. Palermo has always had a history of diversity and people here understand how including people can strengthen their communities and enrich their lives,” Mandy says. “We’ve seen that Palermo is one of the perfect examples of integration. These people have survived their journeys and made it to a safe country alive, leaving their country of birth. But then they have to work out how to integrate into society; how does that society integrate with them?” he reflected.

Mandy was particularly affected by Ousman, a young Gambian refugee living in Palermo, who arrived in Italy as an unaccompanied minor after a desperate journey at sea. “No-one leaves their home by choice, no one wants to get on a boat to another continent unless they have none,” he remarked.

It is possible to manage migration humanely and efficiently; Europe has the capacity and it has the resources. With a new EU Parliament and new EU Commission, the IRC is calling on the EU to take bold decisions - including fulfilling their pledge of resettling 50,000 refugees by October 2019. In addition, the IRC calls on the United States to resettle 95,000 refugees in 2020. With over 25 million refugees globally - of which only 1% are resettled to a third country - welcome is more important than ever.

Mandy Patinkin, IRC Ambassador and Homeland star, said:

“One of the most important things I’ve learned through my work with the International Rescue Committee is that countries like Italy and Greece cannot take the lion’s share of responsibility for taking care of displaced people coming to Europe. It’s the responsibility of the entire EU and the world to support each other, to stop being afraid of people on the move.

More people are displaced today than any other time since WWII. ‘Welcome’ is more important now than ever. What do we say to people to make their hearts come back to life? We need to find ways to make people stop being afraid of their fellow human beings. Our son always says - we have to change the stories we tell. We have to tell the stories of people coming together.

The world is losing its heart. They’re closing doors all over the world - and we’re here to change that. We wouldn’t be here if our grandparents hadn’t been welcomed to the US. As we approach World Refugee Day, I urge you to join the International Rescue Committee’s call for welcome.”

Mandy Patinkin is supporting the International Rescue Committee's call for welcome this World Refugee Day. Learn more about the IRC’s work with refugees in Europe here.

Photos and b-roll of Mandy’s visit can be found here.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.