Angelina Jolie traveled to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa yesterday to thank its residents for welcoming in the estimated 20,000 migrants who arrived after fleeing unrest in Tunisia and Libya. Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, toured a migrant holding center, chatted with some refugees, and then participated in a ceremony at Lampedusa's memorial for migrants lost at sea as part of commemorations for World Refugee Day today. Lampedusa, with a permanent population of 6,000, was overwhelmed this spring by waves of refugees fleeing the social uprising in Tunisia, which is closer to Africa than mainland Italy.
"It is very hard to imagine looking out at this beautiful sea how many people have risked their lives and how many people have risked their children's lives and so many of them have lost their lives at sea," she said. The UN was on hand to urge Europe to continue keeping its doors open to refugees. Italy's center-right government has begrudgingly accepted the migrants. Yesterday, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni drew cheers from an anti-immigrant crowd when he boasted of the hardline policies he has pushed through to return migrants back to their home countries.