Small Wars Journal

On Refugees and Terrorists

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 3:31pm

On Refugees and Terrorists

Rex Brynen

As media attention focuses on the question of whether any of the Paris attackers entered Europe as refugees, I offer a few thoughts.

First, it is important to recognize there is a risk that a small number of extremists might infiltrate refugee flows. Advocates for generous asylum policies--of which I am one--should acknowledge this. Addressing it calls for appropriate resources to be devoted to the challenge. Moreover, screening will never be 100% successful. It never is.

The broader question, however, is whether fear of a few evil men (or women) will lead us to sacrifice our basic moral commitment to fellow human beings fleeing war, oppression, and deprivation. I, for one, am not prepared to grant ISIS a veto over refugee policy or humanitarian obligations.

I am equally confident that the overwhelming majority of refugees will, if given a chance, prove to be productive members of their new societies who are grateful for the asylum they have been granted. Almost all of the research on Western refugee absorption shows net, long-term positive effects. Goodness knows that multicultural Montreal is a much better place for having accepted those fleeing war and instability in Lebanon, Haiti, Rwanda, DR Congo, and many other places besides. There certainly wouldn't be such an excellent choice of shawarma restaurants without them.

During WWII there was also a real risk that among those fleeing war and Nazi oppression there might be spies and fifth columnists. Indeed, some were. I am enormously grateful, however, that fear of that possibility did not lead the authorities to turn back a young boy who arrived in England with his parents in May 1940. He had made a desperate and a perilous journey from the Netherlands by road and sea, a bullet hole in his jacket from being strafed by the Luftwaffe en route.

Had he been turned back, I might not be here to write this. That young boy was my father.


These are wonderful, uplifting sentiments which highlight what is the best of the West. I'm very glad that Mr. Brynen's father made it.

Yet, the nature of Islam impacts the nature of Islamic immigration.

"Hijrah" is a word with which the West ought to be familiar, as we prepare to welcome refugees from the Middle East. Long story short: hijrah is jihad by immigration.

The Islamic website below is instructive:


Sun, 11/15/2015 - 3:14pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

I don't believe it's the West's role to drain the swamp of ISIS' recruitment pool or tax base, nor to water down Islam. European efforts to "secularize" Islam have failed: Europe has merely imported an underclass of people who are not integrated and whose loyalties are suspect.

Germany obviously believes that by creating a multi-ethnic non-German polyglot country and by eschewing nuclear power, that it is somehow atoning for its crimes in the 20th Century.

All these policies are doing are setting the stage for civil war the likes we haven't seen in hundreds of years.

Why is Assad not vilified on the same level as ISIS? Simple - ISIS is killing Westerners...

Outlaw 09

Sun, 11/15/2015 - 3:33am

Warn anyone discussing the role of refugees "ie being smuggled in terrorists"--one comment--check the recent IS video and follow on internet comments pleading with Syrian and Iraqi refugees NOT to go to Europe---they are seriously afraid of the impact on their Caliphate image--meaning yes we control land but suddenly there are no people for the Caliphate.

Secondly, they have a serious fear of the "secularization" of Muslims if they come into contact with a "liberal Europe".

WHAT I miss from all of theses discussions is the total lack of really fully understanding the info war videos released by IS--especially since QJBR/AQI days in Iraq that has been their main discussion links to the world and yet we wave off on them as "propaganda".

On 22 July 2015--they released a video declaring that due to the French air strikes on them the streets of France would be filled with dead bodies.

Four months later we see the reality of the video and there is no connection between them---simply propaganda was the initial reaction to that video before it disappeared from the net.

Suspect the video was released after all planning for this attack had been completed.

The core missed discussion point in the current Syrian refugee flow is just why are they occurring.

We condemn anything IS does but never condemn Assad for his true genocide against a Sunni majority or condemn Russia for it's massive use of dumb bombs, cluster munitions and WP on civilian targets/hospitals/schools/industrial plants claiming they are IS NOR did we condemn Russian killing of over 8K Ukrainians in their invasion of eastern Ukraine.

Why is it that what is good for the goose IS not good for the gander---nation states cannot be "terrorists"? Why are we so darn quick to condemn non state actors BUT so so so slow in doing the same if it is a nation state?


Sat, 11/14/2015 - 11:23pm

In reply to by Rex Brynen

When I see the efforts of the Syrian "moderate" opposition to keep emergency services operating in cities under bombardment by pro-Assad forces, and their desperate resistance in the face of being squeezed between Assad and ISIS (with no air cover), I can't help but feel skepticism over the hordes of military-age men flooding into Europe. It seems like middle-class Syrians can avoid service and escape to Northern European welfare states, while the poor must bear the brunt of the war.

Canada would also improve lives if it airlifted in most of the inhabitants of Africa and Asia.

I'd rather we keep the refugees in Turkey and Jordan, improve their living conditions and repatriate them when the war is done.

Rex Brynen

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 10:53pm

In reply to by J Harlan

A couple of comments on your comments.

I'm not sure how you link my argument about refugee asylum to the issue of military action against ISIL (which I don't discuss at all)--other than to note that I'm Canadian, and assume all Canadians agree with PM Trudeau on the issue. That would be a rather silly assumption on your part, wouldn't it?

In fact, I've long favoured military action against ISIL, and have been publicly critical of the decision to end our commitment to the air campaign.

While it is doubtful that all 25,000 will be in-country by December 31, there's no doubt that a large portion of that amount will be en route or in process. Providing asylum to a (drop-in-the-bucket) 25,000 refugees already outside Syria and registered by UNHCR will have absolutely no significant effect whatsoever on future internal or external displacement. It will, however, make the lives of 25,000 Syrian men, woman, and children very much better.

J Harlan

Sat, 11/14/2015 - 8:10pm

This article perfectly encapsulates the lack of serious thought in the Canadian government about foreign and defence policy.

Canada is about to stop bombing IS because the newly elected PM, Justin Trudeau needed something to differentiate his party (then 3rd in the polls) from the Conservative government. He's also pledged to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees over the next 47 days. Not only is this unlikely to be possible but assists the IS, Syria and Iraq in ethnically cleansing those groups they find undesirable.

Shawarma restaurants. I'll pass thanks.

It is too early to tell whether Canada's generous immigration and refugee policies are working.

What is known is that Sweden has created an unemployed crime-ridden lower class with no net benefit.