The repercussions of horrific events occurring this past weekend in France do not seem to stop. Since Friday when eight terrorists attacked multiple restaurants, an international friendly soccer match, and an historic concert hall that killed 129 people in total, German police discovered two bombs at an international friendly in Hannover. French and Belgian officials have conducted a manhunt targeting the eighth member of the plot, Salah Abdelslam, and many others associated with the terrorists involved in planning the attacks. France has asked for a three-month state of emergency and has ramped up attacks on the Islamic State (ISIS).
The shocking nature of these events and the various links these men have to the Islamic State and to the refugee crisis, however, have also had a political effect. Politicians and media outlets across Europe and the United States have reacted viscerally against ISIS, refugees, and Islam as a whole. The Daily Mail, the second-most circulated newspaper in the United Kingdom, published a cartoon comparing the Syrian refugees to rats. Individual states in America are refusing to accept Syrian refugees (something that cannot they cannot technically do). Far-right politicians, who have been consistently gaining popularity with their anti-immigration rhetoric, have seized on these ties to reinforce their message.
This sort of rhetoric should not be happening. Unfortunately, because Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind of the attacks, traveled to join ISIS and one of the terrorists entered Europe using a (probably fake) Syrian passport along with other migrants, many people now fear every refugee. However, the push to limit refugee flows would only feed right into the IS agenda and would not even solve the problem.
Hostility towards refugees furthers ISIS’s message criticizing immigration to Europe. As Aaron Zelin, a fellow at The Washington Institute, has argued, IS hopes to generate “tribal” feelings within Europe so that new refugees feel unwelcome and return into IS’s open arms. These attacks have generated those exact feelings in may forums, and closing Europe’s borders to migrants will only help more. ISIS could even be strengthened by such rhetoric.
Additionally, fewer refugees in Europe would not have averted the Paris attacks in the first place. Every terrorist except one (whose nationality is unclear currently) is from Europe. Abaaoud himself was Belgian. While fake passports and the large number of refugees certainly pose a security threat, one is posed either way because of the large numbers of Europeans radicalizing and supporting the ISIS goal of terrorizing Western populations. By refusing refugees a priori, European politicians ignore their obligations to human rights and history with little benefit.
Instead of blaming refugees as a whole for these attacks and restricting their flow, the western world must better monitor and screen incoming refugees and target the widespread radicalization occurring in Europe today. Better surveillance, while extremely hard to implement, must be attempted in order to minimize the valid security threat of some refugees. Targeting radicalization is necessary to limit the growing threat of home-grown terrorism. Many European recruits do not feel welcome in European society while IS provides meaning to their lives. By implementing support networks, as Zelin mentions, and changing the mainstream rhetoric, we might just be able to avoid such a terrible attack in the future.