The depths of the crisis has reached new heights this year with the combination of Turkey allowing refugees to travel over to Greece, as well as the coronavirus pandemic striking at the heart of the idyllic islands. Reports on how many refugees now live in Greece vary between 20,000 and 50,000 but the most harrowing statement is that those who have already made the terrifying trip to make it to the bloc, now face living in squalid, unsanitary camps, fit to truly hold little over 5,000. And although calls have been made by numerous humanitarian support groups – including the International Rescue Committee of which Mr Miliband is president and CEO – concerns continue to gather momentum as to how a solution can be agreed.
But for Mr Miliband, the answer is not just about finding a breakthrough on discussions with the EU, Greece and Turkey, the key is actually going straight to the root of the issue of why refugees are fleeing their home nations in the first place.
The former MP for South Shields said: “The truth is the crisis will only be resolved when the war in Syria is resolved because every humanitarian emergency is at route a political emergency. That’s important to be honest about that.
“Turkey is hosting more than three million refugees. Three million refugees, I mean it’s a country that is a little bit bigger than Britain in population, around twenty percent bigger, and it is homing three million refugees.
“It deserves support from the international system for that.”
The ongoing dispute between Turkey and the EU over how to home those fleeing war-torn nations throughout Africa and the Middle East erupted earlier this year, with Turkey allowing refugees to make the dangerous trips across the sea to Greece.
Here, the refugees hoped, they would find a safe route to the bloc where they could seek asylum, yet the reality when they arrived was much different.
The former Foreign Secretary detailed the exact horrors the travellers had found including “mass overcrowding, massive pressure on sanitary facilities and large numbers of unaccompanied children who had lost their parents”.
Mr Miliband issued three major points he argues also need addressing for any form of reprieve to be felt, including the insurance that unaccompanied minors are taken to safety from the camps and that they are supported by foster families to ensure they gain an education.
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He added: “Thirdly, for serious work about where they come from and whether or not they qualify for refugee status and that is something where the new Greek government says it wants to do more on this so you’re right to highlight Greece as an area, it’s one of two EU countries where refugees first arrive – Italy and Greece being the obvious places they come to from north Africa or from the Middle East – so I think it is really important that the EU and Greek government work together to sort out the crisis there.
“Greece has actually done very well in handling COVID, much better than the UK, so it’s important that COVID doesn’t take root in the camps that exist.
“But obviously the ultimate answer to the problem lies in Syria.”
Express.co.uk’s discussion with Mr Miliband came ahead of World Refugee Day earlier this month, in which he issued a plea for the planet to open up its discussion on refugees.
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The demand came as shocking data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHRC) revealed more than one percent of humanity – or one in every 97 people on the planet – have been affected by forced displacement.
What’s more, the number of those eventually able to flee before returning home continues to get smaller and smaller.
The statistics form part of the UNHRC’s Global Trends report and it shows by the end of 2019, 79.5million were displaced, a figure unprecedented in the organisation’s history.
It is made even direr by the fact that, since the Nineties, where on average 1.5 million refugees could return home each year, declining support and standards has led to only 385,000 refugees being able to go back to their home nations annually.