“What’s going on is a dehumanization.”
As the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband knows about refugee crisis around the world. And President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy, which has led to the separation of families and the use of baby jails on the United States’ southern border, is alarming. “It is a grievous blow to the global standards that need to be enhanced, not reduced,” Miliband told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up,” recorded at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colo., on June 26, “to see the U.S. going back on the long-standing commitments that it’s made to due process, to family unification, to treating refugees or seeking sanctuary as people who need to be treated with respect and with love in many cases, rather than with scorn.”
In discussing the migrants coming up from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border, Miliband was quick to remind that what they are doing is absolutely legal. “People, from mainly El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, are exercising their right to claim asylum in the U.S.,” he explained. “They’re not ‘illegal.’ It’s a right under international law.” He later said, “To say that they are illegal and that they should be objects of scorn seems to me to learn the worst lessons of history.”
“The truth is that America has 1 percent of the world’s refugees. Europe has 7 percent or 8 percent of the world’s refugees. The vast bulk of the world’s refugees are in poor and lower-, middle-income countries.” Miliband noted, as he put the global refugee crisis in much-needed context. “Eighty-five percent, 86 percent of the world’s refugees are in poor countries.” Nevertheless, the American and European governments are treating refugees and asylum “as a ‘flood,’ ” Miliband said, explaining the mind-set against migrants, “We’re gonna rob them of their humanity, and we’re not gonna allow them to exercise their humanity or be treated with humanity.”
Before taking the helm of the IRC, Miliband was the foreign secretary for Britain. As his nation’s chief diplomat, he was a steward of the liberal international order that has led to peace and unprecedented prosperity in the West with the assistance and leadership of the United States. But since his election, Donald Trump has continually trashed the Western alliance while cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The West is not just a geographic concept, it’s a political concept,” Miliband noted before launching into a necessary history lesson on that concept’s foundation. “Is the liberal international order dead? No. Is it under threat? Yes,” he said. “Is it under threat from without as well as within? Yes. Does it need to be fought for? Yes.”
Listen to the podcast to hear about the difficulty reuniting children separated from their families; why Miliband said, “Just because something’s constitutional doesn’t make it right,” and why he said, “We’re in the descent to hell, and that’s very dangerous” if the liberal democratic order no longer asserts the primacy of human rights that’s at its core.
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