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Today marks World Refugee Day, an annual event dedicated to raising awareness of refugees and their plight across the planet, with the core aim to ensure as many are helped as possible. Mr Miliband – president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee – admitted that the current crisis, heightened further by ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has seen numbers of refugees globally reach a figure not seen since the horrors of World War 2 in the Forties. Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Mr Miliband outlined the brutal reality facing refugees in 2020, while demanding more support be offered to those in dire need.
His desperate plea comes after shocking data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC) revealed more than one percent of humanity – or one in every 97 people on the planet – have been affected by forced displacement.
What’s more, the number of those eventually able to flee before returning home continues to get smaller and smaller.
The statistics form part of the UNHRC’s Global Trends report and it shows by the end of 2019, 79.5million were displaced, a figure unprecedented in the organisation’s history.
It is made even more dire by the fact that, since the Nineties, where on average 1.5 million refugees could return home each year, declining support and standards has led to only 385,000 refugees being able to go back to their home nations annually.
And for Mr Miliband attitudes needs to change in order to ensure a new direction can be made to support those most in need.
He told Express.co.uk: “The most important thing to do is treat them like human beings and that means overseas aid programmes which are increasingly focused on countries that are suffering humanitarian crisis because of conflict, that services people receive give them dignity, empowerment and hope.
“The other aspect is that richer countries should have programmes that welcome the most vulnerable refugees for what’s called refugee resettlement and that is a programme that Britain has not embraced in a very systematic way.
“There have been occasional bursts of generosity like the Kindertransport in 1939. But as you have seen with the recent decision to revoke David Cameron’s decision to accept 3,000 child refugees, this waxes and wanes.
“So it’s important to support refugees where they are, which is normally countries that are not next door to us, but it’s also important for the vulnerable who need to restart their life because they’re being targeted with violence that they get the chance to start their lives in new countries.”
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He added: “And all European countries – not just EU countries – I think should be part of that and I always used to say to people in my former constituency of South Shields that Britain was taking around five or six refugees per constituency.
“And no one could persuade me that that is a threat to communities that exist, in fact they are an asset to the communities that exist.
“So I don’t think we should be afraid of treating people like human beings, recognising their humanity, while recognising that of course there are limits on the numbers and most people are in poor countries far away.”
One of the biggest ares of crisis nearest to home in the UK is the refugee situation over in Greece.
An ongoing dispute between Turkey and the EU over how to home those fleeing war-torn nations throughout Africa and the Middle East erupted earlier this year, with Turkey allowing refugees to make the dangerous trips across the sea to Greece.
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Here, the refugees hoped, they would find a safe route to the bloc where they could seek asylum, yet the reality when they arrived was much different.
More than 20,000 refugees, many of which are women and children, are crammed into unsanitary camps fit to house a mere 2,000.
Still the EU is clambering to resolve the issue, which currently sees more than three million refugees living in Turkey, and has offered financial support to Greece.
But for Mr Miliband, the only true way to resolve the refugee crisis engulfing Greece and its idyllic islands is by ending the war in Syria – a country where many have fled due to the brutal conflicting smothering the region.
He explained: “The truth is the crisis will only be resolved when the war in Syria is resolved because every humanitarian emergency is at route a political emergency. So that’s important to be honest about that.
“Turkey is hosting more than three million refugees. Three million refugees, I mean it’s a country that is a little bit bigger than Britain in population, around twenty percent bigger, and it is homing three million refugees.
“It deserves support for the international system for that.”
Mr Miliband issued three major points he argues also need addressing for any form of reprieve to be felt, including the insurance that unaccompanied minors are taken to safety from the camps and that they are supported by foster families to ensure they gain an education.
He added: “Thirdly, for serious work about where they come from and whether or not they quality for refugee status and that is something where the new Greek government says it wants to do more on this so you’re right to highlight Greece as an area, it’s one of two EU countries where refugees first arrive – Italy and Greece being the obvious places they come to from north Africa or from the Middle East – so I think it is really important that the EU and Greek government work together to sort out the crisis there.
“Greece has actually done very well in handling COVID, much better than the UK, so it’s important that COVID doesn’t take root in the camps that exist.
“But obviously the ultimate answer to the problem lies in Syria.”
To find out more on how you can support World Refugee Day, visit the IRC’s suggestion page here.
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