Sunday, April 29, 2018


At a time when attitudes are changing, the refugee "problem" is intensifying

Albert Einstein, a refugee from Nazi Germany founded the IRC, International Refugee Committee.  Today the CEO and President is David Miliband, formerly a prominent British politician.  This book is one of his efforts to boost awareness of a serious refugee problem.

Most Americans are vaguely aware of troubles in the Middle East, Africa and Myanmar, but feel it is a problem for somebody else.  It has intruded more in Europe where there is resistance.   In the Mid East and Africa are the majority of refugees living under relatively poor conditions.

Refugees are visualized living in camps, but the majority live in urban settings.  About half of primary age children are not in school.  H. G. Wells once said, "Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe."  Lack of education breeds bigotry and poor choices.

There is a great deal of hatred focused at Muslims.  Christopher de Baillaigue is quoted, "Islam is no settled entity  It has burst its banks and seethes  with discontent and desires that are immediately recognizable as the consequences of a painful engagement with modernity."  It is suggested that Americans need to support moderate Muslims while crackdowns make the process more difficult.

An earlier blog on refugees:

Terrorism is intended to create fear.  It has worked in the west as we have twisted the refugees fleeing terrorism for the terrorists.  Trump campaigning for  president appealed to bigoted attitudes and once elected almost right away took steps that inflamed tension.  Muslims resent being depicted as dangerous radicals.  It was pointed out recently that the Americans need the co-operation of Muslims to deal with terrorists.  Muslims  are being told that Americans hate them and cannot be trusted.  At the same time Americans are resented because they help prop up corrupt regimes.

Much of the refugee crisis could be blamed on big power politics.  Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and Americans had been told there were no weapons of mass destruction.  Nonetheless Iraq was invaded with disastrous results and it could be argued aggravated the situation with Syria.  Afghanistan needed a political solution, but no one wanted to be thought soft on terrorists.

Eli Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, for his 1968 Nobel Peace Prize speech pointed out that victims of political repression depend on the way we use our freedom to make a difference to them.   "The quality of our freedom depends on theirs."  Pope Francis said, "Neglect of refugees is evidence of globalization of indifference."  John F Kennedy called for a "declaration of interdependence."

Excuses for not supporting refugees  are wearing thin.  Charity does starts at home, but it shouldn't end there and we should realize we are all inter connected.   Refugees are fleeing terrorism and if properly integrated are a bulwark against terrorism.  Most refugees are hosted by poor countries that find their resources very stretched.  Germany has stepped up, perhaps because they realize the refugees will help stem a labour shortage.

Political stresses seem likely to be maintained, but another somewhat intertwined factor is climate change.  Syria suffered from a severe drought that forced migration from rural areas to urban and aggravated already established stresses.  Already many residential islands are threatened with rising sea levels.

Miliband acknowledges there is danger in accepting refugees carelessly.  Procedures need to be followed and vetting is critical.

Learned of this book watching David Miliband guest with Fareed Zakaria.

What can you do?  David has a few suggestions.  Refugees need local knowledge.  Practicing language skills.  Get to know them.  I would add don't vote for bigots who have no long term vision.

An excellent TED talk by David is here:

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