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  • I'm going to speak to you about the global refugee crisis

  • and my aim is to show you that this crisis

  • is manageable, not unsolvable,

  • but also show you that this is as much about us and who we are

  • as it is a trial of the refugees on the front line.

  • For me, this is not just a professional obligation,

  • because I run an NGO supporting refugees and displaced people around the world.

  • It's personal.

  • I love this picture.

  • That really handsome guy on the right,

  • that's not me.

  • That's my dad, Ralph, in London, in 1940

  • with his father Samuel.

  • They were Jewish refugees from Belgium.

  • They fled the day the Nazis invaded.

  • And I love this picture, too.

  • It's a group of refugee children

  • arriving in England in 1946 from Poland.

  • And in the middle is my mother, Marion.

  • She was sent to start a new life

  • in a new country

  • on her own

  • at the age of 12.

  • I know this:

  • if Britain had not admitted refugees

  • in the 1940s,

  • I certainly would not be here today.

  • Yet 70 years on, the wheel has come full circle.

  • The sound is of walls being built,

  • vengeful political rhetoric,

  • humanitarian values and principles on fire

  • in the very countries that 70 years ago said never again

  • to statelessness and hopelessness for the victims of war.

  • Last year, every minute,

  • 24 more people were displaced from their homes

  • by conflict, violence and persecution:

  • another chemical weapon attack in Syria,

  • the Taliban on the rampage in Afghanistan,

  • girls driven from their school in northeast Nigeria by Boko Haram.

  • These are not people moving to another country

  • to get a better life.

  • They're fleeing for their lives.

  • It's a real tragedy

  • that the world's most famous refugee can't come to speak to you here today.

  • Many of you will know this picture.

  • It shows the lifeless body

  • of five-year-old Alan Kurdi,

  • a Syrian refugee who died in the Mediterranean in 2015.

  • He died alongside 3,700 others trying to get to Europe.

  • The next year, 2016,

  • 5,000 people died.

  • It's too late for them,

  • but it's not too late for millions of others.

  • It's not too late for people like Frederick.

  • I met him in the Nyarugusu refugee camp in Tanzania.

  • He's from Burundi.

  • He wanted to know where could he complete his studies.

  • He'd done 11 years of schooling. He wanted a 12th year.

  • He said to me, "I pray that my days do not end here

  • in this refugee camp."

  • And it's not too late for Halud.

  • Her parents were Palestinian refugees

  • living in the Yarmouk refugee camp outside Damascus.

  • She was born to refugee parents,

  • and now she's a refugee herself in Lebanon.

  • She's working for the International Rescue Committee to help other refugees,

  • but she has no certainty at all

  • about her future,

  • where it is or what it holds.

  • This talk is about Frederick, about Halud

  • and about millions like them:

  • why they're displaced,

  • how they survive, what help they need and what our responsibilities are.

  • I truly believe this,

  • that the biggest question in the 21st century

  • concerns our duty to strangers.

  • The future "you" is about your duties

  • to strangers.

  • You know better than anyone,

  • the world is more connected than ever before,

  • yet the great danger

  • is that we're consumed by our divisions.

  • And there is no better test of that

  • than how we treat refugees.

  • Here are the facts: 65 million people

  • displaced from their homes by violence and persecution last year.

  • If it was a country,

  • that would be the 21st largest country in the world.

  • Most of those people, about 40 million, stay within their own home country,

  • but 25 million are refugees.

  • That means they cross a border into a neighboring state.

  • Most of them are living in poor countries,

  • relatively poor or lower-middle-income countries, like Lebanon,

  • where Halud is living.

  • In Lebanon, one in four people is a refugee,

  • a quarter of the whole population.

  • And refugees stay for a long time.

  • The average length of displacement

  • is 10 years.

  • I went to what was the world's largest refugee camp, in eastern Kenya.

  • It's called Dadaab.

  • It was built in 1991-92

  • as a "temporary camp" for Somalis fleeing the civil war.

  • I met Silo.

  • And naïvely I said to Silo,

  • "Do you think you'll ever go home to Somalia?"

  • And she said, "What do you mean, go home?

  • I was born here."

  • And then when I asked the camp management

  • how many of the 330,000 people in that camp were born there,

  • they gave me the answer:

  • 100,000.

  • That's what long-term displacement means.

  • Now, the causes of this are deep:

  • weak states that can't support their own people,

  • an international political system

  • weaker than at any time since 1945

  • and differences over theology, governance, engagement with the outside world

  • in significant parts of the Muslim world.

  • Now, those are long-term, generational challenges.

  • That's why I say that this refugee crisis is a trend and not a blip.

  • And it's complex, and when you have big, large, long-term, complex problems,

  • people think nothing can be done.

  • When Pope Francis went to Lampedusa,

  • off the coast of Italy, in 2014,

  • he accused all of us and the global population

  • of what he called "the globalization of indifference."

  • It's a haunting phrase.

  • It means that our hearts have turned to stone.

  • Now, I don't know, you tell me.

  • Are you allowed to argue with the Pope, even at a TED conference?

  • But I think it's not right.

  • I think people do want to make a difference,

  • but they just don't know whether there are any solutions to this crisis.

  • And what I want to tell you today

  • is that though the problems are real, the solutions are real, too.

  • Solution one:

  • these refugees need to get into work in the countries where they're living,

  • and the countries where they're living need massive economic support.

  • In Uganda in 2014, they did a study:

  • 80 percent of refugees in the capital city Kampala

  • needed no humanitarian aid because they were working.

  • They were supported into work.

  • Solution number two:

  • education for kids is a lifeline, not a luxury,

  • when you're displaced for so long.

  • Kids can bounce back when they're given the proper social, emotional support

  • alongside literacy and numeracy.

  • I've seen it for myself.

  • But half of the world's refugee children of primary school age

  • get no education at all,

  • and three-quarters of secondary school age get no education at all.

  • That's crazy.

  • Solution number three:

  • most refugees are in urban areas, in cities, not in camps.

  • What would you or I want if we were a refugee in a city?

  • We would want money to pay rent or buy clothes.

  • That is the future of the humanitarian system,

  • or a significant part of it:

  • give people cash so that you boost the power of refugees

  • and you'll help the local economy.

  • And there's a fourth solution, too,

  • that's controversial but needs to be talked about.

  • The most vulnerable refugees need to be given a new start

  • and a new life in a new country,

  • including in the West.

  • The numbers are relatively small, hundreds of thousands, not millions,

  • but the symbolism is huge.

  • Now is not the time to be banning refugees,

  • as the Trump administration proposes.

  • It's a time to be embracing people who are victims of terror.

  • And remember --

  • (Applause)

  • Remember, anyone who asks you, "Are they properly vetted?"

  • that's a really sensible and good question to ask.

  • The truth is, refugees arriving for resettlement

  • are more vetted than any other population arriving in our countries.

  • So while it's reasonable to ask the question,

  • it's not reasonable to say that refugee is another word for terrorist.

  • Now, what happens --

  • (Applause)

  • What happens when refugees can't get work,

  • they can't get their kids into school,

  • they can't get cash, they can't get a legal route to hope?

  • What happens is they take risky journeys.

  • I went to Lesbos, this beautiful Greek island, two years ago.

  • It's a home to 90,000 people.

  • In one year, 500,000 refugees went across the island.

  • And I want to show you what I saw

  • when I drove across to the north of the island:

  • a pile of life jackets of those who had made it to shore.

  • And when I looked closer,

  • there were small life jackets for children,

  • yellow ones.

  • And I took this picture.

  • You probably can't see the writing, but I want to read it for you.

  • "Warning: will not protect against drowning."

  • So in the 21st century,

  • children are being given life jackets

  • to reach safety in Europe

  • even though those jackets will not save their lives

  • if they fall out of the boat that is taking them there.

  • This is not just a crisis, it's a test.

  • It's a test that civilizations have faced down the ages.

  • It's a test of our humanity.

  • It's a test of us in the Western world

  • of who we are and what we stand for.

  • It's a test of our character, not just our policies.

  • And refugees are a hard case.

  • They do come from faraway parts of the world.

  • They have been through trauma.

  • They're often of a different religion.

  • Those are precisely the reasons we should be helping refugees,

  • not a reason not to help them.

  • And it's a reason to help them because of what it says about us.

  • It's revealing of our values.

  • Empathy and altruism are two of the foundations of civilization.

  • Turn that empathy and altruism into action

  • and we live out a basic moral credo.

  • And in the modern world, we have no excuse.

  • We can't say we don't know what's happening in Juba, South Sudan,

  • or Aleppo, Syria.

  • It's there, in our smartphone

  • in our hand.

  • Ignorance is no excuse at all.

  • Fail to help, and we show we have no moral compass at all.

  • It's also revealing about whether we know our own history.

  • The reason that refugees have rights around the world

  • is because of extraordinary Western leadership

  • by statesmen and women after the Second World War

  • that became universal rights.

  • Trash the protections of refugees, and we trash our own history.

  • This is --

  • (Applause)

  • This is also revealing about the power of democracy

  • as a refuge from dictatorship.

  • How many politicians have you heard say,

  • "We believe in the power of our example, not the example of our power."

  • What they mean is what we stand for is more important than the bombs we drop.

  • Refugees seeking sanctuary

  • have seen the West as a source of hope and a place of haven.

  • Russians, Iranians,

  • Chinese, Eritreans, Cubans,

  • they've come to the West for safety.

  • We throw that away at our peril.

  • And there's one other thing it reveals about us:

  • whether we have any humility for our own mistakes.

  • I'm not one of these people

  • who believes that all the problems in the world are caused by the West.

  • They're not.

  • But when we make mistakes, we should recognize it.

  • It's not an accident that the country which has taken

  • more refugees than any other, the United States,

  • has taken more refugees from Vietnam than any other country.

  • It speaks to the history.

  • But there's more recent history, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • You can't make