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Star Redgrave lauds Merkel as a hero for ‘doing right thing’ on migrants

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Angela Merkel.  PHOTO: Wikipedia

Angela Merkel. PHOTO: Wikipedia

She has spent her life and her fortune supporting left-wing causes, but actress Vanessa Redgrave has found a new and unlikely hero in Angela Merkel.

For the Oscar and Emmy award winner, the conservative German Chancellor is Europe’s new mother courage.

While Merkel faces growing opposition to her stance on migrants in her own party, Redgrave hailed her as the only world leader to have grasped the gravity of the “refugee emergency”.

“I give a big bravo to Angela Merkel,” Redgrave told AFP. “She has tried to do the right thing. I don’t know if they are trying to get rid of her behind the scenes, but I applaud her.

“There is this thing in that woman that is very, very special,” said the veteran actor, 78, one of the legends of British stage and screen and an ambassador for the UN’s children agency UNICEF.

Merkel was named the Financial Times “Person of the Year” earlier this week days after becoming the first female politician in nearly 30 years to win the same accolade from Time magazine.

While Redgrave lauded Merkel’s “decency”, she was scathing about her own government’s efforts, and in particular the hardline attitude of interior minister Theresa May, whom she dismissed as “a Dracula of a Home Secretary”.

She said Britain had attempted to keep the problem at arm’s length by containing it in the squalid “Jungle” camp near Calais in northern France, where up to 4,500 migrants trying to reach the UK now live in a squalid shanty town.

“It’s horrific. Of course the British realise they are putting this problem onto another country, and people are angry. But the media poisons the atmosphere.”

– Gave her money away –
She said London deserves credit for giving “more money than most governments for (Syrian refugee) camps in Jordan and Turkey… so they can bake out in the desert. Britain does give, but it is to keep the problem away.”

Redgrave sank almost all the money she made from films such as the Oscar-winning “Julia” and “Mary Queen of Scots” into political and charitable endeavours. She even mortgaged her modest London apartment to fund an ill-fated festival to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “defeat of fascism”.

A life-long advocate of human rights causes who has courted controversy with her support of the Palestinians, Chechens and some prisoners held by the US in Guantanamo Bay, Redgrave insisted that it was not migrants fleeing war and misery who were acting illegally but European governments.

“Our governments signed conventions on the rights of refugees and they are not respecting them,” she said.

She reserved her harshest criticism for hardline Hungary, which has sealed its southern border against migrants with fences and barbed wire barriers, claiming it had “pretty well a fascist government”.

“The refugee emergency is going to get worse not better — worse for the refugees that our governments are treating abominably.”

– ‘Hunger Games’ about refugees –
But the actress — who turned down a damehood because it ran counter to her radical left-wing politics — said she had been heartened by the number of artists and young people rallying to the migrant cause.

“People who have got nothing in Greece are pouring in to help the refugees. The same in Croatia and Slovenia… This is the true nature of human beings.”

She claimed that the trilogy of “Hunger Games” films — the last of which is topping the US box office — are “adored by children… because they are about being a refugee. They know if it can happen to other children, why can’t it happen to us?”

She said migrant children arriving without papers were being classified as adults by officials who had no idea of the traumas they had gone through.

“Often young boys and girls who have been abused crossing the Sahara and half drowned in the Mediterranean look older.”

The head of Britain’s most celebrated acting dynasty, Redgrave was hit by tragedy in 2009, losing her daughter Natasha — herself a Hollywood star married to Liam Neeson — after a skiing accident, as well as her sister Lynn and brother Corin to cancer in little more than a year.

“I had to give my life a bit to my grandsons who had lost their mother,” she said.

But Redgrave, who was described by the playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams as “the greatest living actress of our times”, has appeared in five films since, and told AFP that she is still hungry for scripts that go “beyond the known limits like (the ancient Greek writer) Euripides… he wrote because he was convinced that people had to know the truth about things.”

A short retrospective of Redgrave’s work at the Forum des Images in Paris was cancelled last month after the terror attacks on the city.


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