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Letter: Terrorists and refugees

Dear editor: In the wake of the gruesome attacks carried out in Paris people have asked a simple question: are there terrorists among the Syrian refugees currently trying to enter the EU and North America? Should we be suspicious of or even bar Syrian refugees from entering Canada on the grounds that they are a security threat?

Well a forthright question deserves a forthright answer. This is especially so since a Syrian passport was found near the mangled body of one of the attackers. Let me begin by saying that we have no idea what this means, but let us assume the worst. Let us assume that one of the attackers was indeed a refugee who had infiltrated Europe at the behest of ISIS. What should we then assume?

Firstly, that this is a vanishingly rare event. The overwhelming majority of the Paris attackers were native French and Belgian. ISIS has NO NEED to use refugees as a fifth column. This means that Europe and Canada would be not a whit safer for excluding them. Recruiting homegrown extremists is far more practical than trying to push militants through the refugee bottleneck. If it is the case that ISIS has attempted the latter strategy, it is surely only to tarnish the image of the refugees and provoke a racist backlash against them.

Secondly, we should not assume that the refugees we would be letting into Canada are an unknown quantity. The 25,000 refugees the government is looking at resettling are already registered as refugees in Turkey and Jordan. Thus, there is no particular obstacle to vetting them in a timely manner.

Will this process be 100 per cent foolproof? No, it would not, but that is because nothing in life is foolproof. We all recognize: isolated cases of listeria do not turn us into vegetarians overnight. Highly speculative risks simply do not justify indifference in the face of overwhelming human misery.

I blame no one for raising the question mooted above, but I ask all of you to please reflect before rushing to an answer.  

Dr. Bernard Wills, Grenfell Campus, Memorial University, Corner Brook

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