Theo James Opens Up About His Grandfather's Experience as a Refugee as He Announces New Role With the UN Refugee Agency

The actor explained the role hits close to home for him.

UNHCR / Andy Hall
(Image credit: Courtesy of UNHCR / Andy Hall)

White Lotus star Theo James has just been announced as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency—a role which he has a deeply personal connection to.

"I am very proud to join UNHCR as a Goodwill Ambassador," James said in a press release. "The experience of my own family has given me an understanding of the sacrifices and struggles that refugees face. During the Second World War, my grandfather was forced to flee on a small boat from Greece to Syria, and his courage and resilience has inspired me to help make a difference to the lives of displaced people."

This new role has been a long time coming for James, who has been meeting and working with asylum-seekers and refugees in Greece, France and Jordan since 2016.

These experiences with those fleeing wars have emphasized how important UNHCR's work is for James. "No one chooses to become a refugee. But we can all choose how to respond to people in need of sanctuary, whose lives depend upon it," he said in the release.

"Refugees arrive in new countries with skills, qualifications and ideas, they just need the chance to contribute. My grandfather was welcomed and offered shelter by the people of Syria, which enabled him to rebuild his life as a doctor and give something back. That is why it is important for me to stand in solidarity with refugees who have fled conflicts today and to help share their stories. They need our support now more than ever."

James' appointment comes just as UNHCR published new figures, which showed that there are currently 120 million displaced people globally today.

You can learn more about the organization's work, including how to get involved and how to donate, on the UNHCR website.

Theo James for UNHCr

Theo James meets a group of refugee children in Jordan.

(Image credit: Courtesy of UNHCR / Andy Hall)
Iris Goldsztajn
Morning Editor

Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of British Vogue, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and SELF. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.