Bono joins Sen. Graham’s call for aid to Mideast refugees – The State (blog)

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Aiding countries facing waves of refugees is key to fighting terrorism pre-emptively, lawmakers and refugee experts said in a spectator-filled congressional hearing Tuesday.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and U2 singer Bono, along with other refugee experts, advocated more financial and humanitarian assistance to Middle Eastern countries — including Turkey, Syria and Jordan — to a Senate appropriations subcommittee.

“This is a crisis where you pay now or pay later,” Graham said. “You’re not going to win this war just by killing terrorists.”

Graham, the subcommittee’s chairman, and others testifying agreed shortages of food and educational opportunities for refugees are some of the biggest threats to a country’s security, especially one on the border of a conflict zone.

“We have to recognize the threats posed by lack of education, food, water, stability,” said retired Marine Gen. James Jones. “The lack of these is a driver of poverty, conflict and extremism.”

Those testifying said simply giving money is not enough. To fix the refugee crisis and stop the spread of terrorism, countries need stability.

“Aid in 2016 is not charity; it’s national security,” Bono said. “A focus on fighting poverty and improving governance … is the best bulwark we have against the extremism of our age.”

The U2 lead singer, known for his philanthropy, is the co-founder of a poverty-fighting campaign focused on Africa and a AIDS-fighting campaign.

Graham’s push for more emergency U.S. foreign aid was inspired by his recent trip to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel.

The senator proposed a modern-day Marshall Plan to reporters last week, touting his billions of dollars in aid for Middle Eastern countries.

Graham’s plan includes long-term economic support from the U.S. and other countries, and helping to create stability in the Middle East through partnerships with the private sector and nongovernmental organizations, developing education and job opportunities, and creating conditional trade agreements and loans.

“We’re not talking writing a check and walking away,” Graham said. He suggested, for example, that a country such as Egypt would have to counter extremism before getting trade deals or loans.

While the U.S. is working in refugee countries in Africa and the Middle East through the United Nations, the crisis is too widespread to meet the needs of everyone, according to Kelly Clements, deputy high commissioner of the U.N.’s refugee effort.

“With the recent budget cuts, it is nearly impossible to meet our needs,” Clements said. “We’re asking other people, the private sector, other governments, for more money … but funds are critical.”

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the subcommittee, agreed helping Middle Eastern countries is important but said spending more money alone won’t solve the problem.

“No question we need money,” Leahy said. “But we can’t even agree on money for (the virus) Zika.”

The economic impact of the refugees varies from country to country depending on their development. In Lebanon, for example, the influx of refugees was expected to lower that country’s gross domestic product by 2.9 percent and raise public expenditures by $1.1 billion, according to a World Bank report.

“The burden is extraordinary,” said Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “We need to help them help the refugees.”

Graham said providing aid to refugees is crucial to striking down the spread of extremism in Middle Eastern and African countries.

“It is in our national security interest to get ahead of this problem before it turns into the jihadist army of the future,” Graham said. “We need to get involved in their lives now or fight them later.”

Bono joins Sen. Graham’s call for aid to Mideast refugees – The State (blog)}