Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Refugees should not pay the price for cowardly terrorist attacks

It only took a few hours after last week’s horrific attacks in Paris before a backlash against migrants and refugees started. Right-wing European politicians who had already claimed that incoming refugees present a security risk immediately asked that the continent should shut its doors. In the United States, more than half the nation's governors say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states. 

The Canadian government has thankfully remained level-headed and reaffirmed its election pledge to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this year, while Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has also confirmed the province's commitment to bring in Syrian refugees fleeing civil war. Some conservative politicians such as Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, however, have asked PM Trudeau to scrap his plan, and online petitions are making the rounds asking for the same. 

While most Canadians remain positive about bringing in more refugees to Canada, many online comments connected to articles about migrants and refugees are outright vitriolic, and there have even been a couple of attacks on Muslims in Canada. A Muslim woman was attacked by two men while picking up her children from a Toronto public school on Monday who called her a “terrorist”. Earlier, a mosque in Peterborough was badly damaged by a fire that appears to have been deliberately set. 

Let’s get the facts straight. Many Syrian refugees are fleeing the same people that committed the heinous attacks in France. They are victims of the war in their country, not perpetrators. Terrorists don’t risk their and their children’s lives on rickety boats on the Mediterranean, or walk for thousands of kilometers through increasingly hostile countries in Europe in the hope of finding a better, safer life, far away from their homes. Terrorists don’t spend months and even years living in deplorable conditions in refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, Iraq or Lebanon.
Syrian refugees living in makeshift shelters in Lebanon's Bekaa valley (@MSF)
Most refugees are just as shocked about last week’s attack as people in Europe or North America. “They are devastated by what happened in Paris,” Paul Yon, the head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in Lebanon, where more than one million Syrian refugees live, told Le Journal de Montreal . "People have Internet access and the backlash is very hard on them. People here aspire only to have a better life, and we close the doors.” 

Now, more than ever, is the time to show solidarity and compassion towards refugees, not mistrust or even hatred. We should bring in more, not fewer refugees. Otherwise, we will let the terrorists win. 

(By Claudia Blume)

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