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"We Need To Take a Global Approach" – Interview with our Fellow Lloyd Axworthy

  • You were the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Labor. Now, you’re working on refugee policy in Germany. What can Germany learn from Canada?

Lloyd Axworthy: I’m impressed with the great interest in the issue that prevails in Germany. But like anywhere in the world, refugees are often seen as a threat. Our experience in Canada shows that accepting refugees can be a good thing – if you approach it the right way.

  • What exactly is going so right in Canada?

We have a concept for providing private support for refugees, for example. Neighbors, families, or even church communities can come together and pool their resources to support a refugee – from language classes to helping them with their shopping. In this way, the refugees no longer feel so isolated, and the Canadians feel like they are making a contribution to societal development.

  • Do Germans not have this same sentiment?

I have the impression that there’s a lot of enthusiasm here. But there aren’t many opportunities to make use of that enthusiasm, because refugees can’t really become part of a community here.

  • Have you observed this problem around the world?

Yes. I was at a refugee camp in Jordan recently; 80,000 refugees live there, and they have no opportunities to get involved in the community.

  • Your vision is a global refugee agency. Is that realistic?

It’s necessary. Currently, there are 22 million refugees, and that number is rising. They’re not just fleeing political persecution anymore; they’re trying to escape the consequences of climate change and many other things. We need to take a global approach. Some countries don’t want to take in any refugees, while others are taking in more than they can handle. The system is in a state of collapse.

  • You founded the World Refugee Council during your fellowship. Is that the first step on this path?

At the very least, we have a clear mission: We need to start looking for solutions. The fellowship gave me the opportunity to make numerous important contacts. Ministers in the council hold discussions with activists and refugees. To find a solution, everyone needs to work together.