Nearly 30,000 people (and counting) have put their names to an online petition demanding the Canadian government put the brakes on its plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by the end of this year.
It comes in the wake of the attacks in Paris Friday and reports one of the attackers may have posed as a refugee to get into Europe.
“The hustle to bring a large number of Syrian people in a short period of time has potential to overlook terrorists. We can not (sic) afford to import terrorists to Canada. Not even a single one,” the petition reads.
Adding fuel to the fire, some politicians in Canada and the U.S. agree.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “suspend” his Syrian refugee plan, saying the government being driven by dates and numbers “may affect the safety of our citizens and the security of our country.”
And, the governors of at least 16 states are now saying they won’t accept Syrian refugees.
But, University of Ottawa law professor Errol Mendes warns “fear mongering” with security concerns about Syrian refugees plays right into the hands of ISIS. Halting the resettlement of refugees might actually aid the terror group.
“They want to stop the refugee process because one of their main sources of income in the ISIS-controlled territory is taxation of the people there, extortion of the people there,” Mendes told Global News on Sunday.
Some argue the threat of refugees importing terror may not be as great as the threat of leaving people displaced by war and terrorism to remain vulnerable in refugee camps.
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“Experience from many conflict zones teaches us that the longer these refugees are left to languish in despair in camps the more prone they become to radicalization,” wrote Anne Speckhard, an expert on radicalization and extremism at University of Georgetown, wrote in the New York Times in September. “Just as gangs attract youth in inner cities, terrorists are adroit at exploiting the most vulnerable who might turn to them for security, justice and even hope.”
One only has to look at the refugee camps in Pakistan, where the Taliban exploited the vulnerable situations in refugee camps and recruited disadvantaged and disenfranchised young men.
But the Syrian refugees who will be prioritized for resettlement in Canada are likely to be female-headed households, unaccompanied minors and people who are medically vulnerable, explained James Milner, Carleton University political science professor who previously worked with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
The Liberals have not yet released specific details of how Syrian refugees will be selected for resettlement in Canada, but Milner told Global News the 25,000 Syrian refugees likely to be resettled in Canada aren’t “your prime recruits for a global jihadi movement.”
“The saying goes in the refugee community that if you were a potential terrorist looking to gain access to Canada, about the last way that you’d want to come in is as a resettled refugee.”
Refugees, in many cases, are the ones who are the ones fleeing terrorism.
The overwhelming majority of terror attacks in 2013 were in the countries where many refugees are fleeing from.
That includes Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria and Somalia; those countries accounted for 84.3 per cent of all terror attacks worldwide.
But this is data prior to the rise of ISIS and its recent foray into attacks on targets beyond the borders of the areas of its self-declared caliphate. The attacks in the past three weeks – the suspected bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula by an ISIS affiliate, the suicide bombings in Lebanon’s capital on Thursday and Friday’s attacks in Paris — have killed approximately 400 people.
And while this seems to signal new tactics for the extremist group, past statistics show few refugees are the perpetrators of domestic terrorism.
“Of the 745,000 refugees resettled since September 11th, only two Iraqis in Kentucky have been arrested on terrorist charges, for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq,” reads an Oct. 17 article in the Economist.
In Canada, there have been cases of refugees or refugee claimants being charged or accused of terror-related activity, including Raed Jaser, who was convicted of plotting to blow up a Via Rail train; his Palestinian family was accepted as refugees and went on to become Canadian citizens, but Jaser’s two refugee claims were denied.
More than 263,000 refugees arrived in Canada between 2005 and 2014, but neither of the two terror-related attacks on Canadian soil last year were carried out by either refugees or immigrants; the attacks in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu and on Parliament Hill were both carried out by Canadian-born young men.
Milner suggested it’s “a very emotional response to a very significant event” to want to stop refugee resettlement in the wake of the attacks in Paris, but he said there’s nothing that raises additional concerns about security because there are checks in place.
The refugees that Canada plans to resettle aren’t those making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas in rickety boats, in hopes of finding new life in Europe; They’re likely to come from UN camps in Lebanon and Jordan, which have taken in more than 1.7 million Syrians.
UNHCR says it has anti-fraud measures in place in its refugee registration system, including biometric security tools like iris scanning.