International Rescue Committee President David Miliband said in an interview published today in the Cairo Review of Global Affairs that wealthy Western countries and Gulf states should open their doors to more refugees.
Miliband, who served as British foreign secretary from 2007 to 2010, applauded nations providing humanitarian aid to address what he called “unprecedented flows of people” since World War II. But, he added, “It’s not enough to be a good aid provider. You, richer countries, Western countries, should be good at welcoming refugees as well.”
The fact that only 120,000 places were available for refugee settlement in 2016 “is very damaging, both substantively and symbolically,” Miliband said. “The traditionally big donors in the West have their own economic challenges that have led to a philosophy of quote-unquote ‘charity begins at home,’” he explained. “I would say to people, you should be careful, while charity begins at home, it mustn’t end at home.”
Miliband said he was worried that President Donald Trump’s plan to curb refugee admissions into the United States could have a symbolic, domino effect. “We are concerned that something which was bipartisan and successful in America is going to become partisan and less successful,” Miliband said. “It’s perfectly reasonable for any U.S. administration to review the security procedures, but there’s no need for them to suspend the program as they are seeking to do.”
Miliband, interviewed for the Summer 2017 edition of the Cairo Review, cautioned that global humanitarian policy needs to shift from focusing on short-term survival to long-term displacement. “The system has an implicit or explicit assumption—that people will go back—but actually we are living in a world where displacement is long term, displacement is urban, and people don’t actually go back,” he said.
Thus, Miliband added, policies are needed to help refugees thrive. “That means education, employment, become extra important,” he said. “That’s not what the humanitarian sector has been practicing in over the last forty or fifty years.”
The Cairo Review of Global Affairs is the quarterly journal of AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP). The journal is available online at www.thecairoreview.com.
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