David Miliband in EU Parliament to address refugee crisis

Former UK politician David Miliband told MEPs the EU "must tackle the source, not just the symptoms" of the current refugee crisis engulfing the continent.

David Miliband | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

09 Sep 2016

Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, Miliband, who now heads the International Rescue Committee (IRC), said this approach was necessary for an "effective response" to the emergency that has seen thousands of refugees, many from Syria, flood into member states.

His comments come on the day the EU announced it was contracting €348m to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) for humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey, part of the bloc's migration co-operation with Ankara.

The money comes as part of a €3 billion support for some three million Syrian refugees living in Turkey, which the EU promised in return for Ankara's help in curbing the number of people embarking from there for Europe.


"This is the largest humanitarian program the EU has ever financed," European humanitarian aid and crisis management Commissioner Christos Stylianides said in announcing the deal.

"The EU is keeping its promise of assisting Turkey in hosting the largest refugee population in the world."

Appearing before the civil liberties, justice, home affairs committee, Miliband compared the burden on "poor countries" in taking in refugees with wealthy nations in the west.

Lebanon had accepted one million Syrian refugees and Jordan 650,000 in the past year, for example, compared with 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States, where Miliband is now based.

For their part, EU member states had set a target of accepting 22,000 refugees but, so far, only just over 8000 had been taken in, he said.

This compares with the 85,000 resettled in the US from "dozens of countries."

Re-settlement, he argued, was currently the "missing plank" of EU policy towards the refugee crisis.

Miliband, who was presenting his work as head of the IRC, said the "minimum" number of refugees the EU and its members should be accepting was 108,000 per year over the next five years - way beyond the current number.

The New York-based former politician said, "This would be not only the morally right thing but a practically correct thing to do."

He said EU resettlement policy should avoid a "sticking plaster" approach so that it was the needs of refugees, many of whom are fleeing torture, that was the priority rather than the needs of their home states.

Miliband also defended current vetting procedures for refugees and migrants seeking to move to Europe and the US, but suggested that the current period it took to process applications in the U.S - 18 to 24 months - was too long.

Miliband, who received only muted applause at the end of his address, pointed out that in the US 36, governors had refused to allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states.

One factor for the current refugee problem was that the EU and Turkey, which has accepted over two million refugees, had not been sufficiently "engaged" in the past.

He told the packed meeting, "My message today is that if the EU only deals with the symptoms of the crisis rather than the source of it, it will not win over public opinion."

Committee Chair Claude Moraes, welcomed Miliband's visit, saying it comes amid a "rising influx" of migrants and refugees into member states.

EU targets for resettling refugees from Syria and elsewhere had, he noted, not yet been met in full.

Parliament, said Moraes, will send a delegation toe Jordan and Lebanon next month to assess the refugee crisis.


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