Sunday, September 6, 2015








Angelina Jolie Pitt says refugee crisis is not just Europe’s problem

  • The Australian
At no time in recent history has there been a greater need for leadership to deal with the consequences and causes of the global refugee crisis.
Nothing brings home this truth more than the sight of columns of refugees marching across European borders, from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
The Syria conflict has created a wave of human suffering that has rolled out across the region and now reached the shores of Europe. Syrians are fleeing barrel bombs, chemical weapons, rape and massacres. Their country has become a killing field.
It should come as no surprise that people who have endured years of war, or who have been living in refugee camps on dwindling rations, are taking matters into their own hands. How many of us could honestly say that in their shoes we would not do the same, confronted by fear, lack of hope, and a glaring lack of international political will to end the conflict.
We identified with Syrians when they called for political and economic freedom in their country. We were outraged by the images of their families bombed in their homes, children being dug out of the rubble, and cities overrun by extremists. Whether in Europe or elsewhere, Syrian refugees deserve our compassion.
Over the past few weeks we have seen many members of the public and growing numbers of political leaders take a moral stand, groups of refugees being welcomed, and new commitments of assistance made. For the first time in years, refugees are leading the news and are at the forefront of debate.
We need to build on this and make it a turning point in people’s understanding not just of the Syria conflict but of the global refugee crisis. It requires us to use not just our hearts but also our heads and not just aid but also diplomacy, and to focus our efforts not just this year, but for years to come.
We must face some hard truths. The first is that the responsibility to help is not determined by the accident of geography, but by adherence to universal human rights and values. It transcends religion, culture and ethnicity. We should not be reaching for the lowest common denominator in our response to the refugee crisis, but striving to live up to our highest ideals. Every country in the world, not just in Europe, must be a part of the solution.
Second, there is no question that the scale of the current refugee flow into Europe poses political, social, economic and security challenges for EU countries. When this is voiced, it should not be simply dismissed. It places a particular responsibility on governments to find the resources to deal with the domestic implications and to help refugees to integrate. Syria’s neighbours have been bearing much greater burdens for years, with exemplary generosity, and need more assistance. Every country, and every government, needs to have a clear plan to meet their international obligations and balance the needs of their citizens.
Third, at this moment of emergency, we should be conscious of the distinction between economic migrants, who are trying to escape extreme poverty, and refugees who are fleeing an immediate threat to their lives. All people on the move in these tragic circumstances must have their human rights and dignity respected and their needs understood and addressed. We should not stigmatise anyone for the aspiration to a better life. But refugees are facing an immediate need to be saved from persecution and death and their rights are defined in international law. That is why effective reception and screening are so important, to enable claims to be analysed and protection extended to those who need it.
Furthermore, however much we welcome refugees on our shores, the problem will grow so long as the conflict in Syria continues. We cannot donate our way out of the crisis, we cannot solve it simply by taking in refugees, we have to find a diplomatic route to end the conflict. It is staggering that since the beginning of the war in Syria, the United Nations Security Council has yet to visit the region, which many of us would see as an essential starting point for diplomacy. The peace initiative that started in Geneva four years ago has petered out, and the energy with which the Iranian nuclear negotiations were conducted has failed so far to materialise for Syria.
Finally, we should see this for what it is — part of a wider crisis in global governance. Over the past 10 years the number of forcibly displaced people in the world has doubled to 60 million. It is unsustainable and beyond what international humanitarian organisations can manage. It is driven by a systemic failure to resolve conflicts. Nothing tells us more about the state of the world than the movement of people across borders. It is time to look for long-term solutions and to recognise that governments, not refugees, have to provide the answer.
This is not the first refugee crisis we have faced, and nor will it be the last. From Europe to America, our countries are built in part on a tradition of helping refugees, from the aftermath of World War II to the Balkans conflict of the 1990s. The way we respond now will confirm what kind of countries we are, the depth of our humanity and the strength of our democracies.

Angelina Jolie Pitt is special envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Arminka Helic is a member of the House of Lords and a former refugee from the 1990s war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The Times







Don’t blame refugees for seeking a better life

Angelina Jolie Pitt and Arminka Helic
Published at 12:01AM, September 7 2015

Families fleeing war must be prioritised over economic migrants to get a grip on this crisis 

At no time in recent history has there been a greater need for leadership to deal with the consequences and causes of the global refugee crisis.

Nothing brings home this truth more than the sight of columns of refugees marching across European borders, from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

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