WASHINGTON, APRIL 22 – Displacement in Africa was debated at the World Bank Spring Meetings 2017 by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and African Finances Ministers: “Refugees must be seen not as a cost but as an asset”, Grandi said on Twitter after attending a series of events, one of which, on addressing refugee flows from a development angle, drew especially large crowds: “A game changer”.
Grandi came to Washington to further talks with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund about expanding those economic development institutions’ support for refugee needs, especially with assistance for infrastructure. “I’m worried about possible reductions in U.S. foreign aid as threatened by President Donald Trump’s administration” he told USA Today. “If one government cuts back, I’ll have to cut back programs that help millions of people,” warned Grandi, who is responsible for serving people fleeing conflicts in places like Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and North Africa.
Grandi listed five things to keep in mind as Americans decide their role in the world. While the public discourse about refugees has become mixed with legitimate concerns about terrorism, security and economic migration, “most people become refugees against their will,” Grandi said. Refugees are fleeing “very serious dangers” and often made “a forced choice” to do so. Foreign aid is crucial for two key reasons, Grandi said: “It’s very much part of our culture and of American culture to help those in need, (and) a refugee population that is insufficiently supported creates instability.”
Examples can be seen in South Sudan, where a famine threatens millions, in Somalia and Libya whose refugees have traveled in unsafe and over-crowded vessels across the Mediterranean Sea to seek shelter in Europe. People from Syria also continue to flee civil war and poured into neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. A donor shortfall in food aid to Syrian refugees in 2014 contributed to the migrant crisis that caused chaos in Europe that year, Grandi said.
Security concerns are legitimate, but the reality is that the number of terrorist acts committed by people posing as refugees is low, Grandi said. Far more terrorist acts were committed by second- and third-generation immigrants, which points to a different threat, he said. “It means that someone was not integrated properly,” he said.
That’s less of a problem in the U.S. and Canada as it is in Europe, which has much to learn about handling refugees from the Western hemisphere, he said, adding that the Trump administration, which is conducting a review of its asylum and refugee procedures, is justified to want to manage the flow, because the alternative is a perception of chaos, Grandi said. (@OnuItalia)