Refugees and the Paris Attacks

Refugees and the Paris attacks of 13 November are connected, just not in the way you might think.

Politicians, world leaders, and other influential individuals immediately responded to the Paris terrorist attacks of Friday by tightening borders and speaking out against migration from Syria and the Middle East. The assumption that those who engage in terrorist activity can be stopped by adopting strict nationalism and borderline xenophobia is deadly. This kind of unfounded thinking will perpetuate, rather than quell terrorist activity in the Western world.

Refugees are not terrorists. Period.

It is possible, however, for a refugee or immigrant, or their children or grandchildren, to become a terrorist through later radicalization. It is also possible that a trained terrorist might pose as a refugee or asylum seeker to gain entrance to another country (at least one of the Paris attackers is believed to have adopted this means of entry into Europe). These possibilities pose legitimate security concerns which must be addressed by governments welcoming refugees from anywhere beyond their borders. And yet, these possibilities are not reason enough to deny refuge to millions of individuals fleeing war and terror far greater in scope than the terrible attacks in Paris. Governments must seek to strike a balance between caution and compassion, between wariness and welcome.

If a¬†refugee resettlement is suspended in the West,¬† a significant victory will be ceded to ISIS and other terrorist organizations. These organizations are known as “terrorist” groups for a reason. They seek control through terrorizing their enemies and by striking fear into their hearts. The push to cut back on migration and refugee resettlement is a response to that fear. The overwhelming majority (read 99.9%) of refugees and asylum seekers are in genuine need of help and are not at all inclined to radicalization or involvement in terrorist activities. If western governments cease to help these individuals, groups like ISIS will again be given the chance to steal from us the values we hold so dear. Instead, terrorists must learn that they cannot take advantage of our compassion and generosity to attack our people and our societies, and that even when they do carry out attacks like the ones in Paris, we will continue to act with generosity and compassion.

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