Refugees are besieging Europe’s shores like never before, and have recently become an election issue in America’s ally to the north, Canada, thanks to the photo seen around the world of the body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi. For those who may have been in a news blackout these past few weeks, I’ll sum up his story with the caveat that much of it is in dispute.
He and his family were Syrian Kurds, believed to have hailed from Kobane, and fled the ISIL siege there. They have a relative in Canada, an aunt, and there is significant dispute over the status of their application for refuge in Canada, or if one was ever submitted. It is ultimately irrelevant, as the mere suggestion of their desire to flee to Canada has made it a hot-button election issue here, along with the differing refugee policies of the competing parties for government.
The question of refugee treatment is not a new one. Past examples of generosity to refugees are often tossed into the debate, particularly successful integration such as Hungarian and Czech refugees from the ’50s and ’60s, and Vietnamese “Boat People” who fled Vietnam after the communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975. These former refugees and their children are a success story, with many of them gratefully integrating and positively contributing to their adoptive countries.
Those who support the active acceptance of greater numbers of refugees now washing ashore in Europe point to this success story. While it is a genuine success story, times have changed. It is no longer the Cold War, and there are genuine dangers that cannot be ignored or wished away.
First, the acceptance of refugees is not an inherent evil. There are groups to which we should show a great deal of compassion and take out all the stops to accept. There is no better example than the interpreters so many of us worked with in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas. Their loyalty is proven, they risked their lives alongside us, and now many of their lives and those of their families are under genuine threat because of their work with us. The programs set up to support their immigration are brutal exercises in bureaucratic futility. We owe them better.
The last waves of refugees we’re seeing now are a bit of a different beast. It has been a constant trickle of mostly economic migrants from Africa and elsewhere risking the crossing of the Mediterranean to find work in Europe. Now, the trickle is turning into a flood as thousands flee the civil war in Syria and are quickly overwhelming the European countries’ ability to vet and process them. The real danger is from the Islamists’ clearly stated aim of sending agents with these masses to attack European targets. Some have already been found, and it will only get worse if the situation isn’t brought under control, and soon.
Terrorist cells perpetrating attacks is definitely the most top-of-mind concern when considering refugee infiltration, but it is by no means the only, or even the most dangerous, threat. Some cells’ purpose is to recruit, others to fundraise, and still others to propagandize their cause. These are no less a threat, and in the case of the fundraising cells it is certainly greater than the terrorist cells, as the vast majority of their fundraising consists of criminal activities.
Canada has long been a haven for terrorist fundraising, with the savvier groups ensuring that they stay below the radar by not conducting any attacks on Canadian soil. Two of the most active groups were the Tamil Tigers (who can credibly claim to be the originators of the suicide bomber), and Hezbollah, whose main target has traditionally been Israel, but is now supporting the Assad regime in Syria at the behest of Iran.
Those who have a great deal of compassion for these refugees need to take a moment to consider their best interests. Simply opening the tap and allowing the masses to flood in will not do them any good. With them will be terrorist cells and sympathizers, and their principle victims are almost always members of their own communities—fellow refugees who are strong-armed into providing funds for terrorist activities or, even worse, their children as recruits.
Attacks and vocal advocacy or lobbying for Islamic causes will only drive wedges between the entire community and their host country. Even worse, once they are accepted, it is almost impossible to deport them as they will claim risk of torture if they return to their country of origin. At the very least their appeals will tie them up in our legal system for years. It may be absurd, but they are nothing if not savvy at taking advantage of our generous legal systems.
Success for these refugees will come from integration. Integration can only occur if there is trust, and trust is hard to gain but easily destroyed. While it is tempting to simply “do something” when you see the image of a dead boy washed up on a beach, our politicians and policymakers need to take the long view. They need to listen to their security and intelligence agencies before opening the taps in the hope of gaining a few votes or percentage points in the polls.
(Featured image courtesy of huffpost.com)