UNHCR’s newest Goodwill Ambassador calls for action and solidarity with refugees.

In a UNHCR transit shelter in Flores, Guatemala, Ben Stiller is meeting with some of the men, women and children forced to flee from violent criminal gangs, known as maras.

In recent years, an estimated 290,000 people from Northern Central America – Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – have fled extraordinary, unchecked brutality at the hands of maras, including murder, rape, abduction and extortion.

“Here in Guatemala, the families, including children, have experienced fear and violence back home that is beyond imagination,” says Ben, an actor, director, philanthropist and UNHCR’s newest global Goodwill Ambassador.

 

“They are vulnerable and have suffered immensely. They need help.”

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Ben Stiller meets a father and son at a transit shelter in Guatemala for families fleeing violence in Northern Central America. ©UNHCR/Michael Muller

Families escaping extreme gang violence have been forced to make long and dangerous journeys to safety, travelling up through Mexico and as far as the United States. Earlier this year some 2,000 families, many from Northern Central America, were separated at the Mexico–US border under the Trump administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ border crossing policy.

Australia for UNHCR has been raising awareness and funds for this ‘silent’ refugee crisis, supporting UNHCR’s work on the ground to protect families and children on the run from gang violence. Australian donations are now helping to provide child-safe shelters, counselling services, education programs for children, and legal information to help refugees understand their rights.

In Guatemala, Ben saw firsthand how UNHCR is assisting families in places like the Casa del Migrante Santa Elena transit centre, where they find a safe place to eat, shower and sleep for the night, as well as access information about their legal rights to asylum.

The refugees Ben met in the transit centre included several children who had fled on their own to escape violence or forcible recruitment by maras.

Last year, over 17,500 unaccompanied children from Northern Central America fled to Mexico in search of safety. Learn more →

Ben Stiller talks with Maria, 55, who fled horrific gang violence and persecution in El Salvador. She is seeking safety and a better life in Guatemala. ©UNHCR/Michael Muller

Speaking after the announcement of his Goodwill Ambassador role earlier this month, Ben drew attention to the urgent need for a compassionate response to the global refugee crisis.

“With over 68 million displaced people around the world today, there has never been a more compelling reason or greater urgency to show solidarity and support for refugees,” he said.

“I for one will do what I can as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, to advocate for refugees and encourage others to join me.”

Ben Stiller talks with new arrivals at a transit shelter in Flores, Guatemala for people forced to flee their homes. ©UNHCR/Michael Muller

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