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Davos 2017 on the Refugee Crisis

Enough about Trump and Brexit, let’s talk about refugees.

In 2016 the number of displaced individuals reached the disturbing figure of 65.3 million – such large numbers have not been seen since World War II.

Described as a ‘particularly deadly’ year by the United Nations, 2016 saw more than 5,000 refugees lose their lives when crowded boats repeatedly overturned in the Mediterranean. To draw comparison, in 2014 less than 200 refugees died in these circumstances.

Attendees at Davos this year experience ‘A Day in the Life of a Refugee’ – a simulated 75 minute workshop run by Crossroads Foundation. The experience is co-developed with refugees and attempts to evoke empathy for the plight of millions.

Unni Karunakara (Ex- President of Medecins Sans Frontieres) experiences ‘A Day in the Life of a Refugee’ at Davos

 

David Miliband is also using his voice at Davos to remind politicians of their power to help the humanitarian crisis we face.

In an article published for the World Economic Forum, Miliband reflected on conversations about refugees at Davos 2016 where, ‘participants were educated and empowered to make a difference’.

However, Miliband goes on to express concern at the lack of progress over the past year, blaming the fact that ‘policy lags behind politics’. He states that, ‘wealthier states – with several exceptions, including Germany – have failed to take in meaningful numbers of refugees’.

David Miliband, President of the International Rescue Committee (IRC)

 

The UK has given asylum to around 5,000 Syrians, compared to over 100,000 in Germany. In fact, Hungary, Italy, France, Sweden and Austria have all given asylum to more refugees than Britain.

Theresa May has promised a more ‘holistic approach’ by the UK Government to the refugee crisis, but Dr Lisa Doyle of the Refugee Council expressed how, ‘concrete steps’ taken by the Government are more important than ‘reshuffles and rhetoric’.

In other words, the proof will be in the pudding.

With regard to the US, despite Trump’s disproportionate claims, less than 0.2% of Syrian refugees have actually been resettled in America – refugees are the single most vetted population entering the States.

Refugees climb to safety

 

The crisis needs not only practical, but financial help. In 2016, the UN appealed for $21 billion in order to tackle humanitarian needs but received only $11 billion.

Although governments are reluctant to give, Miliband makes an interesting point: ‘cash transfers make aid more accountable to the people in need’.

Perhaps, in a political era where hostility towards refugees has been fuelled by irresponsible political campaigning, funding the resolution of the refugee crisis will reserve countries the right to seek accountability when their contributions don’t produce results.

Syrian refugees keep warm after crossing the Mediterranean

 

So far however, it seems that governments globally have not sufficiently shared responsibility for the rising number of displaced individuals.

Whether nations provide funding or asylum, the message to Davos is clear: if this humanitarian crisis is not quickly tackled head on, these disturbing statistics will continue to grow and the social, political and financial impact will span generations.