Clooney and his human-rights lawyer wife, Amal, enjoyed a one-hour meeting with Merkel on Friday morning to discuss the ongoing crisis in the Middle East and the political reaction to it in Europe and elsewhere. Merkel has led Germany’s approach to the greatest movement of refugees since the second world war, which has resulted in Europe’s most populous nation taking in nearly one in two of all asylum applications made by Syrians in EU member states last year.
The actor, director and humanitarian, who was also due to meet refugees in Berlin, earlier told reporters: “I absolutely agree with her”.
The Clooneys were accompanied by David Miliband, the former UK foreign secretary who is now head of the New York-based International Rescue Committee. Miliband told the BBC the meeting involved discussing solutions to the “global problem” and praised Merkel for “showing very strong leadership” during the crisis.
Clooney told the BBC last year that he intended to do more to help the people of Syria, without becoming directly involved with politics, after his marriage to Lebanese-born Amal, née Alamuddin, gave him a new perspective on the country. The actor, a United Nations Messenger of Peace since 2008, has urged the US to take in more refugees.
Speaking on Thursday at the Berlin film festival, where he is currently promoting his role in the new Coen brothers film Hail, Caesar!, the actor admitted the world’s film industry takes too long to respond to humanitarian crises in the wider world.
“I’ve struggled to find ways to make a film about Sudan, about Darfur, something very close to me, and which I spend a lot of time on – but I haven’t been able to find the proper script,” he said. “It’s hard enough to find a good script for anything, and you don’t want to do it badly – because if you do you only get one chance.”
But the actor also reacted angrily to a reporter questioning his commitment to Syria. “I spend a lot of my time working on these things,” he said. “And it’s an odd thing to have someone stand up and ask, ‘What are you doing about it?’”
The refugee crisis has been a major talking point in Berlin, with the city’s mayor, Michael Müller, telling audiences at the film festival that Germany should look to its past as it takes a stand on the issue. “Building new walls and barbed wire, shooting at refugees — these are messages that must never be transmitted from Germany ever, ever again,” he said.
Germany took in 1.1 million refugees in 2015, many of them fleeing the conflict in Syria. But the country’s attitude towards migrants appears to have hardened recently, with Merkel’s open-door policy under fire from opponents within her own conservative camp and outside. Last month Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice chancellor, announced the country was moving to place Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia on a list of “safe countries of origin” – meaning that migrants from those countries would have little chance of winning asylum. He also said some migrants would be blocked from bringing their families to join them in Germany for two years.
This article was written by Ben Child, for theguardian.com on Friday 12th February 2016 14.11 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010