‘I am a refugee,’ Amal Clooney tells Toronto audience

‘I am a refugee,’ Amal Clooney tells Toronto audience
Amal Clooney speaks onstage during the American Film Institute's 46th Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute to George Clooney at Dolby Theatre on June 7, 2018 in Hollywood, California.(File photo: AFP)
Updated 27 June 2018

‘I am a refugee,’ Amal Clooney tells Toronto audience

‘I am a refugee,’ Amal Clooney tells Toronto audience

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney spoke candidly about the international refugee crisis in an interview with her father-in-law, veteran broadcaster Nick Clooney, during an appearance at Toronto’s Luminato arts festival over the weekend.

The Beirut-born lawyer and wife of Hollywood heavyweight George Clooney paid tribute to the UK government in her comments.

“I am a refugee,” Amal Clooney said to a pin-drop quiet audience at the city’s Roy Thomson Hall.

“If I had not had a hand extended to me by the UK government when my family was escaping the war in Lebanon, I wouldn’t have been able to grow up in a safe environment, get the education I have, or do any of the things that I have done,” she was quoted by Toronto’s The Star newspaper as saying. 

“I am so grateful to have been able to enter a country that showed compassion to me. I wish that were happening in more places around the world.”

Clooney went on to ask his daughter-in-law, who wed her actor and director husband in 2014, about topics she championed and advocated for, including the refugee crisis, fighting sexual violence against women and the freedom of the press. 

Last week, George and Amal announced that they were donating $100,000 to the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, an organization based at the University of Chicago that provides legal counsel to unaccompanied children in the US.

The Clooneys, whose foundation has funded eight schools in Lebanon for Syrian refugee children, said that while they could not change the much-decried policy of separating the children of illegal immigrants from their families at the border, “we can help defend the victims of it.”

“At some point in the future, our children will ask us: Is it true, did our country really take babies from their parents and put them in detention centers? And when we answer yes, they’ll ask us what we did about it,” the Clooneys said in a statement.

After a barrage of celebrity uproar, President Donald Trump signed an order last week to stop splitting immigrant families at the border that required a temporary halt to prosecuting parents and guardians, unless they had criminal history or the child’s welfare was in question.

It isn’t the only politically motivated move the couple has made, however. Last year, the couple revealed that they had quietly taken in a Yazidi refugee from Iraq.

In The Hollywood Reporter’s story, George said that Hazim Avdal was living in their home in Kentucky.

“He was on this bus to Mosul, and ISIS shot the two bus drivers and said, ‘Anybody who wants to go to college, we will shoot them,’” George said. “He survived and came to America. He got through all the checks, and once he got through those, it was like, ‘Listen, we got your back. You want to get an education? You want to move your life forward? This is something that we can do.’”