Refugee crisis is personal for support group head David Miliband

Wed Sep 23, 2015 5:53pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ask David Miliband, former British foreign secretary and head of humanitarian relief group International Rescue Committee, about the "flood" of migrants and refugees in Europe and he bristles.

Miliband, who is calling for greater global involvement to handle the crisis unfolding across Europe, recalls how his grandfather was refused entry to Britain in 1948 due to fears of "a flood" into the country.

His father and grandfather went to Britain in 1940 as Jewish refugees after Nazi Germany invaded Belgium, but his grandfather returned to Belgium in 1945 to find his wife and daughter who spent the war there. He was refused entry again.

"My grandfather applied with the rest of the family to come and join (my father) but he was told he could not because of the flood," Miliband told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in his office in midtown Manhattan.

"He eventually came in '56."

His family's treatment has made the crisis personal for Miliband, who left British politics in 2013 to become president and chief executive of the IRC, which provides support for refugees in 40 countries and resettles refugees in 22 U.S. cities.

Miliband said the only way forward is a global effort to tackle the causes and symptoms of the current crisis.

"Our perspective is that this a global challenge, and all rich countries should be playing their part both in helping the victims and in trying to support political and diplomat efforts to tackle the problem at source," he said.   Continued...

International Rescue Committee chief David Miliband is seen at a refugee camp for Syrians on the Greek island of Lesbos, September 14, 2015. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis