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Thousands have found themselves stuck in limbo in the Balkan countries since European countries closed their borders last year | Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

Donald Trump’s executive order to limit immigration means Europe will have to do more.

The U.S. government’s decision to suspend the United States’ refugee resettlement program for 120 days and to ban indefinitely the arrival of Syrian refugees is an abandonment of America’s role as a humanitarian leader and a cruel blow to desperate people fleeing war and terror.

But President Donald Trump’s decision is also Europe’s opportunity to demonstrate leadership on refugee resettlement. Now that the U.S. administration has abdicated a huge part of its responsibility to refugees, it is time for Europe to step up.

Until now, the U.S. has been a global leader on refugee resettlement. With the support of NGOs including the International Rescue Committee, North America has been resettling refugees successfully for decades, including 800,000 since 9/11.

While the U.S. administration has chosen to turn its back on refugees, the rest of the world cannot. Supporting refugees is not just a moral obligation; it is a vital part of maintaining global stability in a world where more and more people are on the move, including an unprecedented 65 million refugees and people displaced within their own countries. European leaders now have an opportunity to make a bold and powerful statement of their intent to fill the void left by President Trump.

He has just slammed the door in the face of 60,000 refugees who were due to be resettled in 2017, many of whom had already been vetted by U.S. authorities. When they meet in Valletta for a migration summit this Friday, European leaders should announce that they will fill this void and offer safe haven to 60,000 refugees this year. This must be the first step toward increasing significantly the number of refugee resettlement places available in Europe. Countries that currently do not participate in resettlement schemes should be forced to cooperate, and those that have reduced their quotas, such as Denmark, should be made to reverse their decision.


Migrants stand in line for food in Belgrade | Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

The reasoning is simple — and not just from a humanitarian point of view. Unless there is a legal route to hope in the form of refugee resettlement, the only people who gain are the people smugglers who profit from misery. The choice for Europe is simple: orderly and organized refugee resettlement that is part of a coherent migration and asylum policy, or disorderly and illegal movement of people. The Western world must show it is not slamming the door in the face of Muslims fleeing war. Trump’s executive order is a propaganda gift to extremists — but it’s not too late for European action to forestall its power.

The Valletta summit is set to focus on closing the routes into Europe from North Africa, but even the strictest measures will not stop desperate people being driven from their homes. The only sustainable and responsible way to address migration flows is to offer safe and legal routes to protection.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates that 10 percent of the world’s refugees are in need of resettlement. These are the most vulnerable of the world’s refugees, including children who have lost their parents during conflict and severely injured people with acute medical problems. Currently, the EU resettles around 9,000 refugees a year. Based on a calculation of Europe’s share of global GDP and population, the International Rescue Committee proposes that European nations resettle at least 540,000 people over the next fives years, equivalent to 108,000 people per year.

Much poorer countries already host many, many more refugees than this. While EU member countries host around 8 percent of the world’s refugees, Ethiopia hosts 700,000 refugees and more than 1 million Syrian refugees live in politically fragile Lebanon. Most refugees will remain in developing countries like these — in fact 85 percent of the world’s refugees are in such places. But refugee resettlement allows Europe to share responsibility with those countries that already host more than their fair share of refugees and now face greater strains because of Trump’s executive order.

It is vital that European vetting and integration arrangements are effective. In IRC’s experience in the U.S., four in five refugees who enroll in our employment programs become economically self-sufficient within six months, and many go on to contribute significantly to the U.S. economy, including by starting their own businesses.

Berlin Holds Jobs Fair For Refugees

Young women from Syria attend the second annual jobs fair for refugees in Berlin | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Events in the U.S. are moving quickly but the EU is not starting from scratch. There is already a mechanism in place to increase refugee resettlement in EU member countries, in the form of a proposed EU-wide resettlement scheme — the Union Resettlement Framework — that is now making its way through the European Parliament and the Council. European leaders must now fast-track this scheme, starting with a reinforced commitment to resettlement at the summit in Malta on Friday.

Refugees are fleeing terror, violence and persecution at the hands of terrorist groups such as ISIL and Boko Haram. They are seeking sanctuary and a peaceful life. Europe must do the decent thing and help them, abroad through intelligent overseas aid and at home through a proper refugee resettlement program for the most vulnerable.

David Miliband is a former British foreign secretary and president and CEO of International Rescue Committee.

Source: http://www.politico.eu/article/as-us-turns-its-back-on-refugees-europe-should-step-up-migration-donald-trump/