David Miliband - Resettling Refugees with the International Rescue Committee - Extended Interview

February 1, 2017 - David Miliband 02/01/2017 Views: 27,184

International Rescue Committee CEO David Miliband discusses the impact that President Trump's Muslim-targeted travel ban has had on the resettlement of Syrian refugees. (9:00)

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Please welcome David Miliband.

-♪ -(cheering, applause)

-Welcome, sir. -Thank you.Great to be here with you.

Uh... great to be here,

but not at a good timefor the IRC.

For those who don't know,real quick--

-what does the IRC do? -So, theInternational Rescue Committee

was founded by Albert Einsteinhere in New York in 1933

to rescue Jews from Europe.

Today we're an internationalhumanitarian aid organization

in 30 war-torn countries,where people are having

their lives ruinedby war and conflict,

and across the U.S.,in 29 cities,

we resettle refugees here.

13,000 refugees founda new life here

with the IRC in 2016.

-(cheering, applause)-So, so...

you-you guys are doing...you're doing amazing work,

and you're on the ground,you know, in contact with...

the faces behind the story.

You know, everyone talksabout the refugees,

and they say all these things, "The refugees..."

But these are peoplethat you are working with.

When the executive order...

slash, uh, travel ban came down,

how did that affectwhat you are actually doing

with these people?

So, immediately,our staff around the world

faced this terrible problem--

a propaganda giftfor ISIS and for Al-Qaeda,

who want to say that America

will never look afterMuslim populations.

That's immediatelythe emboldening of enemies,

never mind the shockfor the allies.

For our refugeeresettlement work here,

we immediately facethe prospect, first,

-of the halving of the numbersof refugees. -Yeah.

But there's also the human sideof the story.

That gets lostin the statistics.

Look, today we're dealingwith the case

of a family, a man, who helpedthe U.S. forces in Iraq.

He found a new home herein 2014,

-because he was admittedas a refugee. -Yes.

His wife had to go throughfurther checks.

She passed those checks,and she booked a plane ride

to come hereon the 7th of February.

What does she get toldjust last weekend?

She's told the gatehas been shut on you.

You're gonna have to remainaway from your husband.

Now, that is nota fictional story.

That is a real case today.

Actually, the man's in theaudience here today.

-They're right here.-He is here.

-And I want to acknowledge them,-(cheering and applause)

because he is not a threatto America.

(cheering and applause)

That man...

That man...

No way...

That man is not someone whoAmericans should be afraid of.

They shouldn't be afraidof his family.

They should be cheering that manbecause he wants to become

a productive and patrioticcitizen in this country.

Let's talk about two things,then, off that.

I'll play devil's advocatefor a second,

and say, how do you respondto people in the U.S.?

And I mean, you're not justresponsible for reallocating

or relocating refugeesin the U.S.,

but also all over the world.

So how do you respond to someonewho says,

"Yeah, but I don't knowwho's safe.

"I don't know if anyonemay sneak through.

"These may be good people,but how do we know

that we're not putting ourselvesin danger?"

So it's harder to getto the U.S. as a refugee

than through any other route.

It's 18 monthsof security checks,

biometric tests, interviews.

So that you go through 12 to 15different parts

of the U.S. government,making sure

that you arewho you say you are,

that you're going to be someonewho lives by the laws

-of this country and contributesto this country. -Yeah.

Now, the truth is thatrefugees are not terrorists.

They are victims of terror.They've got...

They are being bombedout of their homes across Syria,

which is the largestrefugee population,

and the refugee population

has been bannedfrom this country indefinitely.

These are people who have losteverything to ISIS,

to the Russians,to the Assad government.

And they're now being toldthey can't find a future

here in the U.S.

Let-Let's talk a little bitabout the fact that...

I mean, these are peoplewho are running away

from the very same enemy thatAmerica is trying to target.

And so, for all intentsand purposes,

people on the same side.

Now what's happeningis ISIS is using this

as a recruitment tool saying,"As you can see,

"America doesn't want Muslimsin their country,

and so we are your only option."

We've got to understandthat the generational challenge

that's being posed by extremistgroups around the world

is one where they are verystrategic in who they attack

and how they do it and whatmessages they put out.

And we've got to beequally strategic

about the wayin which we do that.

I'm not in government anymore.I'm running a nonpartisan

NGO, which is actually tryingto help people on the ground.

But the governmentshave to be as smart

as the people who aretrying to do us damage.

And this country, in truth,

the heart and soulof the country,

is people who've come fromall over the world

and made a new start here

and contributedto what this country is.

And I think thatthat messaging--

that America willturn its back on Muslims,

that you can never trust them--is the worst possible message.

It's a propaganda gift for thosewho would do damage to the U.S.

If-if you were to speak to anAmerican who is against this,

an America who says,"I'm putting America first,

"I have nothing against refugees

"or any immigrants, but I thinkAmerica should be first,

this is not helping America,"

how would yourespond to that person?

I'd say it's not just rightto welcome refugees here--

it's smart. John Kennedy,when he set up USAID,

the international aid agencyof the U.S. government, in 1961,

he said it befits Americaand it benefits America

to promote stabilityaround the world.

And that isthe essential argument.

The world's got smaller.And the truth is--

you-you know this-- if yourneighbor's house is on fire,

-your house is on fire.-Your house is on fire. Yeah.

And we've got to learnthat lesson today.

There are 7.5 billion peopleon the planet.

Yes, we've got to take careof the home front.

But you don't take careof the home front by pretending

that you're isolatedfrom the rest of the world.

Uh, you-you served,

before you got involvedin-in the IRC,

as um, secretary of state,essentially,

for-for the U.K.,

uh, a position thatRex Tillerson is now filling

for-for the U.S.

In-in your first-- what was it--your first week, maybe,

you also had issueswith the Russians,

-if I remember correctly.-(chuckles) Yeah. The...

Um, it's not a laughing matter,actually. The...

(stammers)the first issue on my desk in...

-in, uh...-We've laughed already.

The-the first issue on my deskin 2007

was that the Russianswere refusing to operate

in the investigation of a murder

-of British citizenon British soil. -Yeah.

It was the Litvinenko case.And so the first issue I had

was how many diplomatsdo we expel

from the Russian embassyin London.

And Rex Tillerson has got aninbox teeming with issues today.

And I think it's reallyimportant that he understands

that in the foreign serviceof the U.S.,

you've got tremendously talentedofficials who are real experts.

And one of the lessonsof the last week

is that hasty policy-makingis bad policy-making.

And his job, it seems to me,is to harness all that expertise

-that exists in the U.S.State Department -Mm-hmm.

and make sure it's brought

so thatevidence-based policy-making,

fact-based policy-makingisn't something from history--

it's something that we live by.

Let's look at the U.K. fora second before I let you go.

Um, Theresa May,who is now, you know,

Prime Minister of the U.K. isin an interesting position

where she's having to guidethe U.K. through Brexit.

You know, the hard Brexits.

You have some of the Torieswho are against it, you know.

Everyone's... everyone's sayinga different thing.

But Theresa May is tryingto saddle up to Donald Trump

and build a relationshipwith the new American president.

What is Britain's future,and what is Britain's role

in all of thiswith regards to refugees,

with regardsto moving the world forward?

And is Britain doingexactly the same thing--

going, "Yeah, we are alsoseparate from the world.

"We have Brexited,America has also Americaing..."?

-I don't knowwhat they'd call it. -(laughter)

But, like, is that whatthe relationship is now?

Well, there is a common theme.

Let's be honest about politicsin America,

in Britain, across Europe.

The common theme is,"Our problems," people say,

"are caused not by us.

-They're someone else's faults."-Yes.

And the heart of politics today,

the big argument in politicstoday is, let's take that on.

Because the truth is,the problems

that exist in Americaor Britain--

we've got to take responsibilityfor our own issues.

And Britain has had a specialrelationship with the U.S.

Long may that continue.

But I always say to people,

a special relationship bringsspecial responsibility,

and the greatest responsibilityis to speak truth to power,

becausethat's what friends are for.

And in this case,

the refugee ban is actuallya threat not just to America.

It's a threat to what the whole

of Western world saysit stands for.

And it seems to meabsolutely vital that Britain,

in or out of Europe--it's got to stand up

for the values,as well as the interests

that have made the countrystrong over the years.

If people want to get involved,

-if people want to help, whatcan they do? -The great thing

about running the IRC is

we're not just workingaround the world.

We're working in 29 U.S. cities.

Please visit rescue.org,the IRC Web site.

Please volunteerto help mentor

and support refugeeswho are arriving.

Please make sure

that you take up the factswith your congressman.

And of course,I wouldn't be doing my job

if I didn't say, donateand support us if you can.

-Thank you so much for beinghere. -Thank you very much.

David Miliband, everybody.