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Williams: Refugees are not globetrotting

13 January 2017


Bleak: a refugee outside a tent at the migrant camp of Vagiohori village, east of Thessaloniki, Greece, on Wednesday. The European Commission said this week that conditions for refugees on Greek islands and in other camps where they are housed in tents despite severe cold weather, is “untenable”

Bleak: a refugee outside a tent at the migrant camp of Vagiohori village, east of Thessaloniki, Greece, on Wednesday. The European Commission said thi...

THE Prime Minister’s attack on the idea of global citizenship should not be used as an excuse to neglect the plight of refugees and people suffering overseas, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams writes in this week’s Church Times.

In a speech at the Conservative Party conference in September last year, Theresa May spoke of how “too many people in positions of power behave as though they have more in common with international elites than with the people down the road. . . But if you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”

Lord Williams writes that Mrs May’s remarks, which were directed against “an international elite of the super-wealthy”, were “taken by some to be a comment on how we respond to needs beyond our national boundaries — including the needs of those who have felt driven from their own homes. . .

“These are not people aspiring to be ‘global citizens’. They want to belong and to contribute, either in their host country, or in their home country when peace is restored. Rootless and irresponsible mobility is exactly not what they are seeking.”

Lord Williams notes that, in recent months, “there has been another round of controversy about the admission of refugees” after the adoption of an amendment, tabled by Lord Dubs, to give unaccompanied children safe refuge in the UK (News, 9 September).

He continues: “Ignoring or minimising the questions around displaced people does not make them go away. And, if we do not have a clear commitment to dealing with the root causes of displacement in their home countries, if we are not committed to helping them develop secure civil space, political justice, and stability, and a properly sustainable and self-supporting economic life, we have no right to be surprised when the waves of unrest and frustrated hope wash against our shores with increasing force.”

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