After the horrific recent terrorist attacks and bombings by the Islamic State, or ISIS, world leaders at the G20 summit in Turkey are not only discussing their joint response to the global threat posed by ISIS but also the supposed fear of terrorists infiltrating the stream of migrants fleeing into the EU and elsewhere. This fear was sparked by the discovery of a Syrian refugee passport found near or on the body of one suicide bomber in Paris and has led many to speculate on the danger in accepting Syrians and refugees of other nationalities, even though there are still many unanswered questions about who the passport belonged to, whether it was stolen, and other key details.
The Most Vulnerable
EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said in the Guardian: “We should not mix the different categories of people coming to Europe. The one responsible for the attacks in Paris…he is a criminal and not a refugee and not an asylum seeker.” At the G20 summit, President Obama said: "The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism. They are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents. They are children. They are orphans and it is very important...that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism."
If there is no end to the Syrian civil war, the EU is predicting that as many as three million refugees will arrive in the next year. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed that more refugees be given jobs and education in the semi-permanent camps on the border of Syria to discourage them from making the dangerous journey to the EU. Poland’s new government has already stated they won’t accept the EU migrant quotas. “In the wake of the tragic events in Paris, Poland doesn’t see the political possibilities to implement a decision on the relocation of refugees,” Konrad Szymanski, the nation’s future minister for European affairs, was quoted as saying on Wpolityce.pl website. “The attacks mean there’s a need for an even deeper revision of the European policy regarding the migrant crisis.”
As EU leaders continue to deal with the influx of Syrian migrants, many are fearing an anti-immigrant and refugee backlash, including in Germany which has taken in the majority of Syrian refugees and has seen a dramatic surge in attacks against migrants and refugee shelters. American Muslim communities are also fearing a backlash after the Paris attacks.
In the US meanwhile, more than twenty-five states have declared they will not accept the resettlement of Syrian refugees, even though the security vetting process can take approximately twenty-four months, and many states have yet to receive any refugees. One South Carolina town even preemptively passed a resolution against the resettlement of refugees in their county limits, even though no Syrian refugees have been resettled in the entire state. The move to not accept Syrian refugees is more symbolic, given that out of the millions fleeing their country’s civil war, only 2,000 Syrian refugees have been granted entrance to the US in the past four years; moreover, it is unclear what effect these announcements will have, since it is President Obama not state governors who “has explicit statutory authorization to accept foreign refugees into the United States.” House Republicans are also creating a task force on Syrian refugees to pursue possible legislation to "pause" the flow of refugees into the US.
Religious Test for Refugees?
In a slightly different proposal, presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz suggested that the US prioritize and accept only Christian Syrian refugees, a move which President Obama condemned. “When I hear political leaders suggesting that there should be a religious test for admitting which person fleeing which country,” Obama said in the Guardian, “when some of these folks themselves come from other countries, that’s shameful. That’s not America. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”