By: Hussein Al-Rumaithi
The recent attacks in Paris and even in Beirut have raised many questions about the possible outcomes that welcoming the refugees might have in western societies. Although the concerns have existed prior to the recent attacks, but the issue has been a hot topic in the headlines and there are many oppositions to any notion of welcoming and accepting those refugees. The argument presented for opposing these refugees is based on several issues, which can be described as following:
- The possibility of having terrorist sleeping-cells among those massive numbers of refugees is very high, as one of the terrorists in the Paris attack had a Syrian Passport on him.
- The amount violence and trauma these refugees have been exposed to, makes them rational candidates for radicalization and ultimately vengeance while on western lands.
- The time-line to accept these refugees, which has been set by the United Nation and some of the western nations, poses many dangers to the security and stability of them, as conducting a thorough background security check on these refugees requires sometime. Therefore, according to the time-line, which has been accepted by some of the western nations would not be sufficient to conduct an effective background check on those refugees.
In addition, some extreme voices have raised the notion of only accepting the refugees that can assure their Christianity and not accepting any Muslims. Although, many of these extreme and radical calls are exclusive to Europe, certain groups and individuals in the United States have raised similar voices as well.
Therefore, it would be beneficial to examine the legitimacy of the concerns raised against accepting and welcoming refugees into Europe and North America. This examination would aid in shaping a better comprehension about this complicated issue, as some of the concerns raised are legitimate and rational. In addition, there are many hidden or forgotten facts, when it comes to the refugee crisis, which make the ability to have a decision on this topic hazy and rather difficult.
Refugees VS Terrorists
No one denies the fact that the percentage of possible terrorists among the current refugee crisis is a very tiny portion, which will not exceed 0.0001% at best. Therefore, majority of these refugees are desperate and victims of a bloody conflict that has left them displaced and forced to leave their homes and cities to secure their lives and loved ones. In addition, claiming a refugee status is only one of the ways that someone can get to a specific country and reside there, as majority of the current refugees in Western Europe have arrived there illegally. Therefore, the chances of having terrorists among those refugee already exists and poses a great danger to Europe, which means the fear of terrorists among those refugees is no longer rational, when a country wants to accept few thousands refugees through the legal channels and immigration procedures.
These refugees can be screened and selected through numerous filtration methods, which can assure only qualified individuals are selected and accepted for refugee status. In addition, there are thousands of orphans and widows among those refugees that require immediate attention and consideration for refugee status, and those groups can be prioritized for screening.
Nonetheless, the routes for arriving to a certain country are not only through refugee status, as mentioned earlier, and terrorist groups are definitely able to fabricate documents and files for any individual to be accepted as a student, an investor or even a tourist into any country. In addition, the same illegal ways are still available for others, as there are thousands of people in the United States, who have crossed into the US illegally and conduct their affairs like any other resident in the US. Therefore, the same methods can be utilized by terrorist groups and radical individuals can find a way intro any country, if they decide to pursue such a method.
Nevertheless, most of the recent terrorist attacks in the west were carried out by home-grown elements and individuals, who were citizens of those countries and some of them were even born and raised in the west. Therefore, the quantity of radical elements in the west diminishes or decreases the fears of having terrorists among refugees.
Psychological status of Refugees
The concern of the psychological status of the refugees and exposure to tremendous amount of violence and trauma is taken out of context and used unethically for political and partisan intentions. Obviously, the current refugees have been exposed to a great amount of violence and trauma and obviously they have witnessed many horrific scenes that no ordinary human should ever witness. This exposure and this great amount of violence is the primary reason, which has forced those people to flee their country and homes and seek safety in a society that differs from, what they have lived in for years.
In addition, majority of the current immigrants and refugees in the west (Europe, United States and Canada) were victims of violence, terrorism or authoritarian regimes. Some of the immigrants and refugees, who are now citizens of many western countries are still suffering from their past experiences, and many of them struggle to forget the great amount of oppression or violence they had to experience. Therefore, why wasn’t this notion an issue when accepting those refugees? The immigrants and refugees from the Balkan war, the refugees from the first Gulf war, the refugees from Congo, the refugees from South Sudan, the refugees from Europe post WWII. These are all victims of violence and oppression, who still suffer from trauma and exposure to scenes of genocides and massacres. Therefore, this issue should not even be raised, as the ethical responsibility is on our burdens to help those refuges pass through these experiences and return to their normal life and routines.
Background screening and security checks
Without doubt this concern is the only legitimate issue that can hold its ground in any discussion or deliberation, when it comes to the refugee crisis. The United State has agreed to accept 10,000 refugees into its borders and Canada has agreed to accept 25,000 refugees, and countries like Germany and Sweden, which have already let thousands of refugees through their borders, have pledged to accept and legalize thousands. Therefore, the issue of security and background check on refugees in Europe is sort of meaningless, as Europe is already overwhelmed by refugees, and the streets of Berlin, Frankfort, Stockholm and other major cities are filled with refugees.
This concern is majorly a North American issue, which can be considered as legitimate and rational as mentioned earlier, since the time-line suggested by the United Nation and pledged by the US and Canada to accept those numbers is irrational. For instance, the Canadian government led by the newly elected Liberal Party, has pledged to accept 25,000 refugees within a time-line that doesn’t exceed 60 days. The Obama administration also has pledged to accept the 10,000 refugees based on an expedited sets of procedures, which has raised many concerns and criticism in the US. Therefore, to be rational and logical, the time-line set for accepting those refugees, put a great amount of pressure of immigration offices and officers, as they are required to process a tremendous amount of procedures, within an unorthodox required time window. Background and security checks require patience and a great deal of thoroughness, as the information needed to make a decision for each application is processed through many global security agencies. These information need to be verified and coordinated in a professional manner, which assures the safety of the citizens and a hassle-free journey for the refugees to their final destination. Incomplete procedures can ultimately cause distress and discomfort for the refugees once they arrive to the United States or Canada, which can also lead to social and psychological unrest for the refugees that can delay the process of integrating to the new society.
Therefore, providing and forming dependable camps for the refugees in Europe, through a coordinated and a shared international effort will ensure the refugees are temporarily contained and a reasonable time-line is available for the western countries (USA & Canada) to conduct the necessary screening procedures. In addition, the numbers of refugees to be accepted by Canada and the United States are not as big as the numbers that have been pledged by European countries, which means the wait times would not be as lengthy as many might think. Therefore, these nations have abided by their pledges and a reasonable solution has been reached and outlined for future cases.
Nevertheless, the refugee crisis will continue and remain as one of the most complicated symptoms of the conflict in the Middle East, and as long as the conflict in Syria is not solved the flow of refugees will continue. Therefore, the international community is obligated to end this conflict and bring stability to this region before the situation get to a point that cannot even be contained.