The global refugee system has broken down, says Angelina Jolie Pitt. Discuss

Never thought I would find myself commenting on Angelina Jolie Pitt… well, never say never. BBC World Have Your Say (from 31’25”) asked for my views on her passionate plea to help refugees and her call to do something to rescue the global refugee system that has broken down. David Miliband expressed a similar concern a few days ago, but his analysis didn’t convince me (BBC Radio 5 Up all night, from 3h17’15”) .

She made many sensible points, pretty much UNHCR’s official line.

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The journalist’s line instead was that Angelina’s position was utopian and idealistic. I resisted this characterisation and also tried to bust two myths she used to ground her position: firstly, according to her British citizens like Germans have a ‘legitimate concern’ that the refugees will take over their welfare – to which I pointed out one could hardly compare 1 million asylum seekers in Germany with twenty odd thousands in the UK; secondly, she said ‘but the Germans are aging and this is why they were so generous’ – to which I replied ‘this position is nonsense and cynical’, she said ‘why cynical?’, first because even if at a slower pace Britons are aging too (I said ‘they are not getting any younger’); second, because if this was the ‘real’ reason for Germany’s generosity, well there were far easier ways to recruit skilled migrants. I also told her that her position assumed that forced migrants were the majority if not the totality of migrants moving in and out of Europe, well this is hardly the case in Europe and globally. Even if at a peak globally, forced migrants are still a fraction of international migrants. Not sure if this is why they cut me off from the programme half-way through it.

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