Confronting poem performance addresses refugee plight


A spine-chilling reading of a poem is part of a new push by the UN Refugee Agency to get people to stand with refugees.

More than 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes with almost nothing in order to save their lives, as the world is engulfed in the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is trying to get more people to open their hearts to their plight.

Alongside a petition, it's released a powerful performance by several Hollywood actors detailing what items refugees took with them.

Actress and UNHCR goodwill ambassador Cate Blanchett led the performance of 'What They Took With Them', which was written by Jenifer Toksvig, and she says she was struck by the power of the poem.

"The rhythm and words of the poem echo the frenzy and chaos and terror of suddenly being forced to leave your home, grabbing what little you can carry with you, and fleeing for safety."

Confronting poem performance addresses refugee plight

An Iraqi girl, who fled from Falluja because of Islamic State violence, is seen at a refugee camp (Reuters)

Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Peter Capaldi, Stanley Tucci, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kit Harington, Douglas Booth, Jesse Eisenberg and Neil Gaiman also took part in the performance.

Items are detailed in rapid succession, overlaid occasionally with photos and videos of refugees captured by Brian Sokol.

Toksvig's poem was inspired by first-hand testimonies of those forced to flee their homes.

Some were brought bracelets, or prayer beads. Others took photos.

Still others escaped with nothing more than their lives.

"I have nothing from my home," one part of the poem reads. "Everything was broken in the struggle. We were out in just 10 minutes."

Confronting poem performance addresses refugee plight

A broken doll is left on a plastic chair at a camp for refugees in Greece (Reuters)

"As a UNHCR goodwill ambassador, I believe the very least each of us can do is work together to ensure refugees have the basics with which to build back their lives - an education, somewhere safe to live, the ability to work," Blanchett says.

"I hope this film will urge people to go to and sign the petition."

New Zealand announced a boost to its refugee quota this year, from 750 to 1000. It's the first time the quota has been adjusted in nearly 30 years.

The change won't kick in until in 2018.