THE European Union has come under brutal attack from David Miliband for “not pulling its weight”, who accused Brussels of “failing in important parts of its response on its own shores” to support and protect refugees during the ongoing migrant crisis.
Mr Miliband, who is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, will tell EU leaders at this week’s Global Refugee Summit in Geneva “tragically few safe and legal routes exist for people fleeing war and persecution to access safety in Europe”. The former Labour MP and leadership candidate, who oversees humanitarian aid and development programs in 40 countries, a global staff of 12,000 and 1,300 volunteers in his current role, will confront EU leaders at the summit. In an open letter to them ahead of the event, which runs for two days from Tuesday, Mr Miliband urges them to “address the glaring gaps in Europe’s own response to migration”.
He says Europe will be looking “outwards” at this week’s summit, with 85 percent of refugees hosted in low and middle income countries, with the focus being on supporting these countries to enable refugees to work and go to school.
Mr Miliband praises ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations” as an “invaluable presence in these countries” and a “truly-forward thinking donor”.
But in a scathing broadside, he warns: “This record of foreign aid hides an unpalatable truth – Europe is failing in important parts of its response on its own shores. By too many measures, Europe is not pulling its weight.
“Tragically few safe and legal routes exist for people fleeing war and persecution to access safety in Europe.
“And for those who do make it to Europe, the reality that greets them is far rom the humane, efficient processing and integration that is important.”
Mr Miliband will plead with EU leaders to acknowledge that 85 percent of refugees throughout the world are hosted in poorer countries than those of the EU.
He will say 40,000 people “remain in limbo” on the Greek islands in “humane conditions that rank among the worst our teams have seen anywhere in the world” because of the inability to reach a deal on a fairer way to share responsibility for asylum seekers across Europe.
The brother of former Labour leader Ed Miliband says: “People who have risked their lives undertaking long and treacherous journeys to reach safety face new horrors in Europe: sleeping in flimsy tents in winter, their children exposed to sexual abuse and exploitation, a lack of access to basic medical care.
“The human cost of the political deadlock that has characterised Europe’s response to migration is a stain on the continent’s proud record of championing fundamental rights around the world.”
Mr Miliband also lashes out at Europe for not “leading the way on the economic and social inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers”, adding several barriers prevent them from getting a job and education for their children.
He said research from the International Rescue Committee has shown that even in “examples” countries such as Germany, only six percent of women recognised as refugees are in employment.
Mr Miliband says: “This is a tragic waste of potential. I urge you to seize the opportunity offered by the Global Refugee Forum to address this situation, which serves neither refugees and asylum seekers nor host communities.
“With global displacement remaining high, global resettlement numbers continuing to fall and new arrivals in the EU down to pre-2014 levels, the EU should now send a strong signal of international solidarity with refugee hosting countries in order to maintain its international credibility.”
He warned “four immediate actions are needed”, the first of which is a system to share responsibility for hosting refugees and asylum seekers throughout Europe.
Mr Miliband also wants EU leaders to help the Greek Government with the crisis in the country, particularly on the islands “as a matter of urgency” and pledge to adopt a new strategy at EU level to foster social and economic inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers.
He also wants EU leaders to make a “collective resettlement pledge” of at least 30,000 places at next year’s Global Refugee Forum and commit to a “continuous, sustainable and significant increase in resettlement numbers beyond this annual pledge to reach 250,000 by 2025”.
Mr Miliband concluded his letter: “With the new European institutions and leadership now in place, the Global Refugee Forum comes at a moment of renewed momentum to address these urgent issues.
“I appeal to you to seize this opportunity to put in place a comprehensive, fair and sustainable European response to migration.”