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UN's Angelina Jolie warns of breakdown for global refugee system

UN special envoy for refugees Angelina Jolie has warned of a "race to the bottom" among countries competing to be tougher on migration than their neighbors. In particular, the actress criticized the US for its policies.

Angelina Jolie Pitt, who is the United Nations special envoy for the UNHCR refugee agency, on Monday warned that fears about uncontrolled immigration had lent a "false air of legitimacy to those who promote politics of fear and separation."

"It has created the risk of a race to the bottom, with countries competing to be the toughest in the hope of protecting themselves whatever the cost... and despite their international responsibilities," said Jolie.

The actress said all nations needed to pull together to deal with the world's displaced people, establishing a coordinated and orderly system for refugees and migrants.

"If your neighbor's house is on fire you are not safe if you lock your doors. Isolationism is not strength," Jolie said at a migration event organized by the BBC. "Strength lies in being unafraid. I believe this is again that once-in-a-generation moment when nations have to pull together."

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"How we respond will determine whether we create a more stable world, or face decades of far greater instability."

In 2015, the UNHCR put the estimated number of displaced people worldwide at a record 60 million, a figure that's likely to rise in 2016.

Europe, in particular, has struggled to adopt a united approach amid an influx of

more than a million people to the EU

over the course of last year. In March, the bloc struck a

controversial deal with Turkey

that gave Ankara more money in exchange for a refugee swap system.

US policies 'disheartening'

However, the US actress said she was particularly dismayed with Washington's response. A trickle of Syrian refugees has

only just begun to arrive in the US

after President Barack Obama last September promised that a relatively modest figure of at least 10,000 would be accepted over 12 months.

"I have been very, very disheartened by my own country's response to the situation," Jolie said.

She went on to address Republican US presidential contender Donald Trump's proposed ban on all Muslims entering the country.

"To me, America is built on people from around the world coming together for freedoms, and especially freedom of religion. It is hard to hear that this is coming from someone who's pressing to be an American president."

rc/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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