Syrian Refugees a Threat to the West?
by Andrew E. Harrod (feat. Candice Malcom)
Family Security Matters
March 17, 2016
"Europe is a basket case" and "it is going to get worse in 2016," stated former House Intelligence Committee chairman Pete Hoekstra at a February 29 Center for a Secure Free Society (CSFS) panel in Washington, DC, on Middle East refugees. He and his fellow panelists gave critical analysis of various dangers faced by Western societies responding to the humanitarian crisis caused by sectarian violence in a disintegrating Iraq and Syria.
Center for a Secure Free Society Senior Fellow J.D. Gordon introduced the panel by noting that four million Syrians, about half the country's population, have fled the country. Such numbers placed in perspective the 10,000 Syrian refugees President Barack Obama's administration intended to resettle in the United States, as mentioned in the event literature. Center for a Secure Free Society International Fellow for Canada Candice Malcolmsimilarly noted that Canada had fulfilled the very day of the panel a campaign pledge by recently elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees.
Yet the panel focused on Europe, where an estimated 900,000 Syrian refugees had entered Germany alone, as noted by panel moderator and Daily Caller opinion editor Jordan Bloom. American career diplomat Ambassador Alberto Fernandez described this human stream by which Europe voided its own entry rules as a "massive, unplanned exercise in virtue signaling by the European Union." Bloom worriedly noted the recent announcement by German authorities that they had lost track of 130,000 refugees.
"Germany is lying," Hoekstra responded to Bloom amidst audience laughter, "there is no way that they are still tracking 770,000, that they have only lost 130,000. They only know that they have lost 130,000." Hoekstra described television coverage during a recent Europe vacation of thousands of refugees in the Budapest train station where he and his wife had just transited. He speculated that perhaps another 50-70,000 refugees had entered Germany without any official knowledge.
"If you don't think that they are seeded with ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] people, you are crazy," Hoekstra said of these refugees while predicting for Europe as well as Canada a "security nightmare." "We have no idea who these people are. The Canadians have no idea who these people are," he stated while suggesting that half the refugees entering Europe actually came from Afghanistan. Fernandez discussed a Syrian friend living in Belgium who went to visit 90 supposed Syrian refugees in her community but only discovered five; the rest of the individuals hailed from various places like Afghanistan or Eritrea.
Malcolm cited worrying statistics such as those of a British polling firm that found 20 percent of Syrians in general and 13 percent of Syrian refugee camp residents in particular having a positive view of ISIS. ALebanese cabinet minister had estimated that two percent of Syrian refugees were ISIS sympathizers/members, approximating nonetheless 20,000 dangerous individuals among Lebanon's 1.2 million Syrian refugees. Yet for Syrian refugees "Europe has absolutely no selection criteria whatsoever. It is a first come, first served free-for-all."
Malcolm described strict Canadian security controls similar to America's designed to screen such dangers among refugee resettlement applicants. Canada only accepted Syrian families, no single men, from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps and applicants could not have infectious diseases or criminal records. Any inconsistency in an applicant's story immediately stops security checks involving an interview.
Nonetheless, Malcolm noted that ISIS had seized passport production facilities in Syria's failed state, a factor among others like stolen identification that would stymie even Canada's precautions. Reliable Syrian officials for local background investigations no longer existed, she noted, while Hoekstra observed that "by definition, trying to get information from a failed state means you are going to get failed information." While Canadian intelligence has already identified Islamic terror cells in every major Canadian city, Malcolm stated, ‘it just takes one to get through to create a national security threat." This should also concern Canada's American neighbor across a basically open border.
While Trudeau's refugee pledge initially helped him on the campaign trail, Canadian public opinion has "totally flipped" on further refugee resettlement, Malcolm observed. "After the [November 2015] Paris attacks, people in Canada started to realize that there was a threat" and overwhelmed Canadian refugee aid organizations want a pause in admitting refugees. While Trudeau has called for resettling another 25,000 refugees, 70 percent of surveyed Canadians disagree with his policy and 43 percent want no more.
Fernandez noted that security concerns can extend beyond the first generation of resettled Muslim refugees. "Second generation immigrants are an at risk population," as unlike the parents who show gratitude towards asylum countries, the children "grow up confused, they grow up with identity issues." As an example he cited the 2013 Boston marathon bombers, the offspring of Chechen asylum seekers, while Malcolm mentioned Ottawa's 2014 Parliament Hill shooter, a Canadian-born man whose father was involved with Libyan jihadists.
Himself a Cuban refugee, Fernandez worried about Muslim refugee assimilation in a Europe now having an "acute crisis of identity." He emphasized the necessity of a "confident, clear-minded culture, society, and state who understands who they are, what they are, what their values are, what they stand for, to be able to assimilate others." The demand to assimilate foreign-born individuals into a society begs the question "assimilate into what?"
Amidst all these concerns, Fernandez noted in Syria the "tremendous irony that the countries that are not responsible for this debacle are the ones being called upon to do much" to help. Iran, Qatar, Russia, and Saudi Arabia had given the most aid to the Syrian conflict parties, yet the single largest humanitarian donor to Syrian refugees was the United States, a non-Muslim-majority country. Malcolm meanwhile noted that 90 percent of Syrian refugees originally offered sanctuary in Canada refused, demonstrating how many refugees wanted to stay in the region. Many things would be simpler for all concerned if only they could satisfactorily fulfill this wish.