Wednesday is World Refugee Day.
But ours is a world of refugees every day, every week and every month in this era, with displaced people on the move everywhere and at an unabated rate.
On Tuesday, the United Nations reported that last year “wars, violence and persecution drove worldwide forced displacement to a new high in 2017 for the fifth year in a row.” Across all countries, the report stated, 68.5 million people — or one human being in every 110 — are displaced.
The profound population dislocation won’t end soon. Indeed, it may accelerate as multiple regions suffer chronic conflict, climate change, economic desperation and other turmoil of the kind already convulsing countries and whole continents.
In particular, Europe is politically embroiled in bitter immigration strife threatening to further unravel a postwar order that has delivered seven decades of relative peace and prosperity.
In Germany, the most serious challenge to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rule is coming from an immigration-inspired intraparty dispute that may lead to the collapse of her relatively weak coalition government.
Merkel bought herself a fortnight to forge a broader European agreement on immigration policy. Should she fail, her government may, too, potentially bolstering the far-right Alternative for Germany party.
A far-right coalition of parties has already ascended in Italy. And acting upon the strident anti-immigration campaign rhetoric, the new government turned away a rescue ship filled with desperate African asylum-seekers. Malta balked, too, so Spain saved the day, and most likely lives, by ultimately accepting the vessel.
Crafting a more cohesive policy beyond this crisis is essential — first to ease the migration emergency, but more broadly to meet the political crisis of illiberal populism that threatens to test Western unity just when it’s needed to counter a revanchist Russia and a rising China.
President Donald Trump made matters worse (as usual) when he took to Twitter (as usual) to assail an ally, Merkel. “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition,” Trump gleefully tweeted. “Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!”
Trump had his facts wrong (as usual). Crime is at a generational low in Germany, and the vast majority of arrivals strive to integrate into their new culture. They’re usually not violent, but fleeing violence. And welcoming desperate refugees was no big mistake, but a big-hearted act of compassion reflecting ideals the U.S. used to share.
That tradition should be honored on World Refugee Day, and every day in these turbulent times. The U.S. president should lead the world toward a durable solution to displacement, not mock those who have had the decency to help.