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Mary Robinson: Worst Refugee Crisis Since WWII Driven in Part by Climate Change

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During his campaign, Trump repeatedly said he would end all immigration to the U.S. by Syrian refugees and others from what he called “terror-prone nations,” and on Wednesday, a spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC defended a proposed registry for all Muslim immigrants by citing World War II Japanese-American internment camps. “It’s such a contradiction from the reality as we know it in the world,” responds our guest Mary Robinson, “and the importance of actually having more inclusive societies.” Robinson served as president of Ireland from 1990 to 1997 and U.N. high commissioner for human rights from 1997 to 2002.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve expressed great concern for refugees.


AMY GOODMAN: How does the crisis of refugees, the worst since World War II, relate to climate?

MARY ROBINSON: It relates very much. We have a big crisis of refugees. We also have a crisis of migrants who don’t qualify under the Refugee Convention. And many of them are now, in part, at least, driven by the impacts of climate change, driven by very severe drought. Some of it is internal, but a lot of it is now across borders, as well. There are 75 million people who live on coastlines around the world a meter or less above sea level. Miami is part of that, and other state—other cities in the United States. We’re in danger of getting to that meter all too quickly. And then 75 million people might have to move.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to share a clip of Donald Trump on the campaign trail, who repeatedly said he would end all immigration to the U.S. by Syrian refugees and others from what he called “terror-prone nations.” This is Trump speaking last month.

DONALD TRUMP: We’re not going to take the risk when it comes to the safety of the American people, no longer. So let me state this as clearly as I can: If I’m elected president, I am going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country.

AMY GOODMAN: That is Donald Trump speaking last month. Earlier this year, President Robinson, you addressed the European Parliament in Brussels, where you suggested a comparison could be made between today and the Nazi era. European people knew then, you said, what was happening to the refugees and still did little or nothing to save them. You said, quote, “I am not afraid of the refugees. I am afraid of the state of my conscience in 25 years’ time if Europe fails to act now.”

MARY ROBINSON: I do feel very strongly about it, and so do The Elders, that I belong to, that were brought together by Nelson Mandela, you know, 10 years ago. We have our 10th anniversary coming up. And we were in New York with the International Rescue Committee, listening to the very good policies they have on admitting refugees, including Syrian refugees. And the point is, there is an extremely careful vetting that goes on. So it’s wrong to suggest that anybody could come in who would be potentially, you know, going to cause a problem. In fact, the problems, as I understand it, have been caused by those born in the United States or living in the United States for a very long time. And of course we want to combat terrorism, but we have to understand the importance of fully supporting the Refugee Convention, but also all migrants have human rights. And that’s the important message that we need to get across.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Carl Higbie, a spokesman for the pro-Trump Great America PAC, defending a proposed registry for all Muslim immigrants by citing World War II Japanese interment camps. He spoke with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly.

CARL HIGBIE: We did it during World War II with Japanese, which, you know, call it what you will—

MEGYN KELLY: Come on. You’re not—

CARL HIGBIE: Maybe wrong, but—

MEGYN KELLY: You’re not proposing we go back to the days of internment camps, I hope.

CARL HIGBIE: No, no, no. I’m not proposing that at all, Megyn.

MEGYN KELLY: You know better than to suggest that.

CARL HIGBIE: But what I am saying is that we need to protect America first.

MEGYN KELLY: I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that gets people scared, Carl.

CARL HIGBIE: Right, but it’s—I’m just saying, there is precedent for it. And I’m not saying I agree with it. But in this case, I absolutely believe that a regional-based—

MEGYN KELLY: You can’t be citing Japanese internment camps as precedent for anything the president-elect is going to do.

CARL HIGBIE: Look, the president needs to protect America first. And if that means having people that are not protected under our Constitution have some sort of registry, so we can understand—until we can identify the true threat and where it’s coming from, I support it.

AMY GOODMAN: Your response to this, former Irish President Mary Robinson?

MARY ROBINSON: I’ve met quite a number of people here at this COP from Muslim countries, and they are quite scared, and Muslims living in the United States who are here at the COP, and they are very scared. Words matter, actually. And it’s important not to somehow try to characterize as “the other” all Muslims. You know, it’s such a contradiction from the reality as we know it in the world and the importance of actually having more inclusive societies.

We have two agendas of last year: the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals, to leave no one behind, but to reach the furthest behind first, and the Paris agenda, to have action that is inclusive, that is gender-sensitive, that is human rights. That is the agenda the world needs. We need a solidarity between peoples, not walls, not hatred, not words that create fear in other people. And it is possible to secure entirely the United States, to the extent that any country can be secured, and not have these measures that put fear and actually divide people. We need to bring people together, and that’s what the Paris Agreement is all about in working towards a sustainable world.

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