The Paris Attacks Have Made The Syrian Refugee Crisis Much More Complicated

The news that at least some of the men who were involved in the terrorist attacks in Paris were among the refugees who have arrived in Europe since the summer is likely to complicate an already complicated situation.

Syrian Refugees Coming Ashore In Greece

While the investigation into the attackers behind Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, and those in France and elsewhere who may have been involved in supporting the attack, is still ongoing, it is becoming increasingly apparent that at least some of the men involved arrived in Paris via other parts of Europe where the arrived along with the tens of thousands of refugees from Syria that have been coming to the continent from Syria since the summer. James Joyner already made note of this in a Quick Pick, but this morning CNN is reporting that at least one of the attackers posed as a refugee in Greece before making his way to Paris:

Investigators in France and beyond have begun making arrests as they piece together the identities and back stories of the terrorists who killed more than 120 people in gun and bomb attacks across Paris.

And the clues and evidence appeared Sunday to be piling up.The French channel BFMTV, a CNN affiliate, reported that authorities had found three Kalashnikov automatic rifles were found in an abandoned car in the eastern Paris suburb of Montreiul that was believed to have been used by perpetrators of the attacks.

And CNN’s Christiane Amanpour reported that Europe’s worst nightmare is now taking place — that Islamic extremist group ISIS is making good on its pledge to hide operatives among the wave of refugees now entering Europe.

The first bomber to blow himself up at the Stade de France on Frida was Syrian, and he landed with migrants on the Greek island of Leros on October 2, where he was issued an emergency passport under the name Ahmad al-Mohammad. The fingerprints on that passport matched those of the Stade de France bomber, Amanpour said, citing an unnamed French senator who was briefed by the Ministry of the Interior.

European officials believe, Amanpour said, that there is “a very professional new squad of terrorists inserting themselves into some of these migrant voyages.”

The two others who detonated themselves that the stadium carried false Turkish passports, Amanpour reported.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for Friday night’s coordinated series of deadly assaults, the worst violence in France since World War II.

Officials are still trying to figure out who the assailants were and how they planned and carried out near-simultaneous massacres at restaurants, bars and a concert hall in the French capital without being detected by intelligence agencies.

One of the suicide bombers has been identified as Ismael Omar Mostefai, according to Jean-Pierre Gorges, the mayor of the French town of Chartres. Mostefai lived in Chartres at least until 2012, Gorges, who is also a member of Parliament, said in a Facebook post Saturday.

As it was, the vast number of migrants arriving in Europe from Syria was raising security and other fears from many of the nations that were being asked to take them in and take care of them as they were being processed, a logistical process that quickly became overwhelming. Quickly, the stream of refugees became a humanitarian crisis. The summer, for example, brought us images of overloaded boats capsizing while at sea and refugees reaching the shore only to die in the effort to get to land. Those who made it onshore were not exactly welcomed, either. In many cases, the nations where the refugees initially arrived simply transported them to their border and sent them on their way after being processed.  Hungary, which became at the very least a transit way for refugees trying to reach nations such as Germany and beyond quickly began imposing restrictions including erecting a border fence, The fence and other restrictions, though, proved futile in stemming the tide of migrants, and officials soon began using tear gas and water cannons on refugees while government official demeaned the refugees by tossing food at them. Additionally, right-wing political leaders protested against the migrants and we saw supporters of those political parties physically stomping on migrants as they tried to made their way through a border crossing. Hungary’s Prime Minister said that the policies are designed to discourage the refugees from crossing into Hungary, and their seems to be little sympathy for them in the country. While some nations, such as Germany and France, and even Great Britain and Iceland, were more welcoming, the overwhelming concern across Europe was the concern that at least some of these refugees could pose security risks.

The fact that we are now confirming that at least some of the attackers involved in the attacks in Paris on Friday came into Europe with the migrant wave seems only likely to make Europe less welcoming to these refugees even as the West seems more likely to engage in actions that will probably create even more of them:

BERLIN — For months, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children have literally marched their way into Europe, fleeing war, poverty and hunger, arriving in such huge numbers that they set off uncommon displays of compassion — and outright acts of fear.

Even before the attacks in Paris on Friday, some of the most welcoming of Europeans were beginning to lose patience. Borders were closed, benefits cut, warnings issued in Arabic to stay away.

But on Saturday, French officials revealed what could prove to be a turning point in the debate over migration: One of the attackers was carrying a Syrian passport and, perhaps more ominously, may have entered Europe along the migrant trail.

Poland moved first to shut the door.

“After Paris, we lost security guarantees,” said Konrad Szymanski, Poland’s new minister for relations with other European nations. He added, “The tragic events in Paris showed weakness in Europe.”

Europe never knew how to deal with the migrants. Greece pushed them to Macedonia. Hungary put up a fence. Austria and Germany welcomed them, for a time. But there was no coordinated strategy for the 28 members of the European Union. The only agreement, after summit meetings and other talks, was a plan to distribute 160,000 refugees among all the member states. It was a fraction of the total migrant population, and the agreement was achieved only under intense pressure from Germany.

Now, Poland is moving toward undoing that deal.

The incoming conservative government in Warsaw quickly criticized the plan, Mr. Szymanski wrote in wPolityce.pl, a right-wing journal. “In view of the tragic events in Paris, we do not see the political possibility of executing this policy. Poland must retain full control over its borders.”

Under the relocation plan, Poland would receive only 9,000 of the migrants, but Mr. Szymanski said via email Saturday that Poland would agree to accept them only with “security guarantees,” including a full security check on “every person covered by international protection in Europe.”

Poland’s determination to scuttle the pact may spread, dooming it even as investigators in Paris are still trying to establish the identities and backgrounds of the assailants who killed more than 120 people on Friday.

Although the practice appears rare, a French intelligence official said it would not be the first time that a militant had mingled in the stream of migrants arriving in Europe via Turkey and Greece. He said French security services had recently identified one in Calais. A former senior intelligence official, who is still well briefed, said: “This is becoming a strategy for them: to embed among the migrants.”

Indeed, the attacks emboldened some politicians who had already voiced fears about the security risks and financial costs of trying to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people seeking refuge in a region with its own economic troubles. Populist and conservative leaders around Europe on Saturday stepped up their calls to tighten or shut borders and to halt the flow of migrants, many of them from Syria, where the Islamic State looms large.

Former communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe have insisted that their largely homogeneous, impoverished societies cannot cope with a large influx of outsiders — who usually prefer to head for wealthier, more multicultural countries like Germany, Austria or Sweden.

On Saturday, conservative politicians from Slovakia and populist and nationalist leaders in Western Europe, like Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, swiftly used denunciations of the Paris violence to bolster their calls for keeping migrants out and borders shut.

In Slovakia, Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has opposed refugee quotas, announced tightened security on his country’s borders, particularly the one with Ukraine, and insisted that “everyone who illegally crosses borders must be seen as a security threat.”

After the Paris attacks, he said, his government would watch for signs of right-wing extremism, as well as other forms. He added, “I hope that the events that took place open the eyes of some people now.”

Margus Tsahkna, Estonia’s minister of social protection and a member of a small right-wing party in the governing coalition who has opposed the niqab, or full-face veil, worn by some Muslim women, said on Facebookthat Estonians must face a “harsh reality” and that “Europe is at war.”

A party colleague, Marko Mihkelson, who is a member of Parliament, echoed the sentiment. “If this is not declaring war on Europe, then what is?” he asked. “The terrorists must know they are facing a force that has no mercy and is capable of striking back.”

The attacks in Paris have spawned responses that seem likely to lead to more restrictive policies toward refugees not only in many Eastern European nations where right-leaning populations and government controlled by right-wing governments — Poland, for example, recently saw its right-wing coalition sweep national elections — but also elsewhere in Europe. In the wake of the attacks, the government in Sweden, which had already seen a rise in anti-migrant sentiment prior to the events in Paris, announced that it too would begin cracking down on the number of refugees that would be allowed in the country. In Germany, which has been among the most welcoming of the nations of Europe in the past several months, politicians are beginning to question the policies that have been in place for the past several months. As more news comes out regarding the extent to which the refugee crisis may have been used to smuggle ISIS agents, and possibly even weapons or other material support, into Europe, it’s likely that we’ll see many more European nations step back and at least reconsider their policies. Here in the United States, meanwhile, the Obama Administration’s announcement in September that more refugees would be brought to the U.S., which was already being called into question, has become a renewed focus of attack by pretty much all of the Republican candidates for President, while the Democratic candidates appeared to continue to support Administration policy and even argue that we should take in more refugees.

The vast majority of the refugees fleeing Syria, and to some extent the areas of Iraq that are the focus of the attacks against ISIS by the U.S., Iraqi, and Kurdish forces, are, of course, not terrorists. These are people who are fleeing war just like refugees have been doing since time immemorial and many of them are doing so in the face of ISIS encroachments that threaten to draft the men and boys into military service and the women and girls into some form of sexual slavery. It’s a refugee crisis that has been going on since the civil war started in Syria, and which has resulted in some four million refugees who already inhabit camps and other areas in Turkey, Jordan, as well as Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon. With these nations nearly at the brink of their capacity to care for refugees even with international support, the refugees are doing what refugees do and heading north and west into Europe. Under international law and simple human decency, they obviously need to be assisted rather than abandoned. At the same time, though, the security concerns that have been expressed from the beginning about the security risks that European and other nations were taking in accepting so many people at once, especially given the fact that screenings for security purposes could only be cursory at best in many cases. are entirely understandable. Add to that the fact that ISIS communiques long before the events in Paris were saying that it would use the flood of refugees to sneak operatives into Europe, and it’s not entirely unreasonable to expect political leaders, and citizens, in Europe to be wary of the flood of new arrivals. The attacks in Paris are only going to enhance these concerns.

Whether it’s legitimate or not, and that’s a matter that will be subject of debate going forward, the news of links between the Paris attacks and the refugees arriving in Europe is only likely to make nations less hospitable toward refugees and strengthen the hand of right-wing political parties, such as the National Front in France. This isn’t going to stem the tide of refugees, of course, but it could have an impact on how they are treated when they arrive in nations like Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and elsewhere along the Mediterranean Coast. One possible solution to this, of course, would be to expand refugee camps in the areas around Syria, but the truth of the matter there is that Turkey and Jordan are already stretched to the limits of their capacity to take care of the people they have taken in already, and expanding the demand for services could prove problematic even with international assistance. Many people have pointed out that some of the primary movers in the Arab world behind the anti-Assad rebels in Syria — specifically, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain — have taken in a relatively small amount of refugees and don’t appear to be contributing much to the care of refugees that, to a great extent, their own policies have helped create. The Saudis in particular have pushed back against this criticism and noted that they have taken in some 100,000 refugees, but that seems like a paltry number compared to Syria’s immediate neighbors, and especially Europe where, at least prior to know, Germany itself was preparing to take in as many as 800,000 people seeking shelter from Syria’s civil war. In the end, I’m not sure that sending these people to camps in Saudi Arabia is the answer, and both the U.A.E. and Bahrain are simply physically too small to take take in many refugees on their own, but it seems clear that more could be done.

As a practical matter, the news that some of the people who brought terror to the streets of Paris Friday night is going to have an understandably negative impact on Europe’s willingness to take in refugees. At the very least, it is likely to slow the process of screening these people before letting them roam free throughout the European Union. It’s also likely to call the Obama Administration’s decision to bring more refugees to the United States into even more question, both on the campaign trail and on Capitol Hill. In the long-term, of course, the solution to the refugee crisis is to end the war in Syria so that these people can return home, but that’s something that seems to be a long-term goal with only a limited chance of success to say the very least. Until that happens, the refugees are going to continue trying to flee, and the fears that ISIS agents will be hidden among them will only increase. How Europe, and the rest of the world responds to that in a way that addresses both the humanitarian concerns of a helping war refugees and the perfectly valid security concerns that Friday’s events have raised is a short-term question that will have to be answered soon.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Campaign 2016, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. bill says:

    gee, you’d think maybe their muslim brethren would take pity on them and put them on the dole (like the oil sheikdoms)? the reality is they all despise one another over there, like they haven’t evolved past the last millennium or something.
    so why the hell does the western world need to take care of their trash when we know;
    1) they aren’t going to assimilate willingly
    2) they pretty much hate you already, but will gladly accept your “charity/gov’t. welfare”
    3) some of them will try to kill mass quantities of you, with a smile.
    4) their values are not at all “western”- what’s important to them is very different
    5) they treat women like shit
    so how are you going to “change” them?

  2. Stonetools says:

    Looks like Doug has reluctantly come around to accepting that we must intervene to end the Syrian conflict. Progress. As to the refugee flow, winter is likely to slow it to a trickle. That’s not a solution, of course.
    Generous financial help to the countries that bear the brunt of the refugee crisis- Lebanon, Jordan, and Turrkey -will help a lot. Eventually , though, we are going to have to turn off the tap. That means settling Syria somehow. And the US is going to have to be part of that.
    Kerry was at a conference to settle Syria recently. There needs to be another one and soon.

  3. I really haven’t said that, have I? Because there is nothing that we alone can do to end the conflict. All I said is that the long-term solution is an end to the civil war, but anyone who pretends that they know how to do that, or that it’s something that we can do at all, is fooling themselves.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    @Stonetools:

    So, what’s your plan? You and I have had lots of fun playing the 1,2,3 game with Doug, so it’s fair enough for me to put it to you. How do we settle Syria?

    Are we back to nation-building? Do we happen to have 300 or 400 thousand soldiers to put in place as an occupying force? Are we going to have Marines closing down radical mosques and madrassas? Are we going to knock off Assad and start trouble with the Russians? Are we making common cause with the Shi’ites? What are we doing about the snakes in Istanbul, our supposed NATO allies?

    Here’s what we’re going to do: nothing. We’ll help our little French buddies drop a few bombs and then, nothing. That’s my guess. Shock and awe on a smaller scale. Oooh, gun camera video! Boom goes the empty building! That’ll show ’em.

  5. JKB says:

    A way to stem the migrant crisis and even help those who cannot make the trip.

    So instead of moving the people across the borders, we should move the borders across the people. What people are really voting for, when they vote with their feet, is imperialism. They want to be ruled by foreigners.

  6. Stonetools says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Doug I think everyone sees that you have moved off your no intervention whatsoever stance. It’s plain that you you have finally decided that simply ignoring Syria won’t work. Younow concede. that we have to do something and that something involves intervention to end the war.

  7. Stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That was fun. My plan really is to continue with the Obama plan of containment. Now is not the time to talk of magic bullets like atomic weapons. I would also

    1. Dramatically increase support to the Kurds who are fighting their asses off.
    2. Learn hard on our allies in the Gulf to stop supporting Sunni extremists.
    3 . Push hard for an all hands peace conference. We might have to accept that Assad might be there for a while and that we might have to compromise with some aszholes. So be it.
    4. Increase financial support for refugees in neighboring countries.
    5. Continue to press for the EU to remain open to refugees and greatly increase our refugee quota.

    That’s my first cut as a plan. It ain’t perfect. But no plan will be.
    We also have to understand that we are going to take casualties and it’s a generational struggle. That’s real world.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Stonetools:

    1. Dramatically increase support to the Kurds who are fighting their asses off.

    The Kurds are lions, I love ’em. But they’re only really interested in their own turf, they’re not going to move ISIS out of the rest of Syria and Iraq.

    2. Learn hard on our allies in the Gulf to stop supporting Sunni extremists.

    Been doing that. Our Gulf “allies” are useless. Worse than useless. And they won’t get serious about ISIS because this is become a Sunni-Shia thing and that matters way more than our pressure.

    3 . Push hard for an all hands peace conference. We might have to accept that Assad might be there for a while and that we might have to compromise with some aszholes. So be it.

    Peace conference? Leading to what, peace? How does that happen, we ask ISIS and the AQ affiliates to join hands? This peace conference has no effect unless it’s a war conference, and if it’s a war conference then with greatest respect and affection, Stoney, you’re just kicking the can down the road by avoiding the grubby details.

    4. Increase financial support for refugees in neighboring countries.

    What shall we pay Turkey for housing some of the refugees their support of ISIS helped to create. Just about every foreign fighter reached Syria through Turkey, a country that is more than capable of shutting down that flow. Now, help Jordan? Absolutely.

    5. Continue to press for the EU to remain open to refugees and greatly increase our refugee quota.

    Why? So we can encourage the growth of right wing nativist parties in Europe? Because that will work out great. More refugees = more nativist resistance = more Muslim extremism = more nativist resistance. . .

    None of your bullet points does a single thing to reduce the reach of ISIS or AQ or the next crazy in line behind those two. What it accomplishes net-net is strengthening Kurds which pisses off Turks who are already half in bed with Islamic extremism and can have their sly revenge in allowing more terrorists to move across their borders.

    Do you propose killing these aszholes or not? If yes, how?

  9. Mikey says:

    Apparently the Syrian passports found with the terrorists are fakes.

    http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrian-passports-found-scene-paris-attacks-fakes-made-turkey-police-520642631

    So far the only positive identification that has been made is of a 29-year-old man of Algerian ancestry who was born and raised in France.

  10. MikeSJ says:

    2. Learn hard on our allies in the Gulf to stop supporting Sunni extremists.

    I’d find the money trail and start killing the players involved. Saudi Prince this and Qatar Bigshot that gets a bullet in the back of the head. Let them know play time is over and we mean business. They only care about themselves so lets make this about them. Start killing them and tell the cut the crap or keep dieing.

    4. Increase financial support for refugees in neighboring countries.

    Hmm. Sounds good especially since there’s no money anywhere in the Arab world. What? There’s these countries called Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain that are fabulously wealthy?

    Maybe they could actually take care of their own people with their own money. God knows they wouldn’t do squat to help us. (OK, the Saudi’s would build some mosques for us. I’ll give them that.)

    5. Continue to press for the EU to remain open to refugees and greatly increase our refugee quota.

    When you want to get out of a hole you first need to stop digging. Germany is at the breaking point. They have no more room unless they force people to take migrants into their homes. Nobody and I mean nobody in Poland or Hungary gives a flying F. about helping muslims and if their leaders pushed this policy those leaders would end up swinging from a balcony.

  11. Stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Sorry it took so long to respond. Been vacationing with the Spouse in historic Jamestowne. As I said, Michael I’m looking long term. Our air campaign are killing ISIS troops right now and our drone strikes are hitting their leadership. So we aren’t helpless. As I post there is news that the French are bombing ISIS, so the Frappe de Force is on point.
    There is and will be no quick fix, but we can apply more pressure and we are doing so. Final victory will have to wait till their ideology is discredited and their leaders are killed off but that is achievable long term. Reneember we had no quick fix for the USSR IN 1948 either c

  12. Stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Sorry it took so long to respond. Been vacationing with the Spouse in historic Jamestowne. As I said, Michael I’m looking long term. Our air campaign are killing ISIS troops right now and our drone strikes are hitting their leadership. So we aren’t helpless. As I post there is news that the French are bombing ISIS, so the Frappe de Force is on point.
    There is and will be no quick fix, but we can apply more pressure and we are doing so. Final victory will have to wait till their ideology is discredited and their leaders are killed off but that is achievable long term. Remember we had no quick fix for the USSR IN 1948 either.And there were people clamoring for us to use the Bomb then.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @Stonetools:

    Wife before OTB, that’s definitely the smart move.

  14. bill says:

    so now the french are bombing sites they knew of prior to the attacks- it’s like putting on a condom after sex. you’d think they’d learn not to swing with the msm but no-they don’t.
    when dealing with animals- think like them……..it’s easy, albeit messier.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    so now the french are bombing sites they knew of prior to the attacks

    Yes of course…if only they had done that, Friday’s events never would have happened…

    when dealing with animals- think like them

    We now know the company you must keep…

  16. Gustopher says:

    How about US run refugee camps in the region? The UN safe havens in Bosnia were a sad joke, because the UN didn’t have the force to protect them — we can do better, because we have a large army and a clear chain of command.

    There’s a good chunk of Iraq and Syria that the governments aren’t able to hang onto — there must be an reasonably easy to defend bit in there we can seize for this.

    The refugee camps would definitely become a target, but with guards around the perimeter, everything and everyone searched before entry, it might be doable. Huge logistic problems, but perhaps not insurmountable. The camps would have to be pretty close to cage-free jails though, to maintain security, and even jails in the US have a thriving black market of contraband.

    Not advocating, just pondering.

  17. bill says:

    @An Interested Party: you can’t prove a negative, and you can’t reason with savages. you can try smarmy attempts at sounding all so civilized but in the end you’re siding with terrorists as you’re afraid to deal with them from your comfy place.
    it’s like obama- assuring us all that isis is “contained” just hours before the paris attacks. that’s not getting much press but he did say it.

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/14/politics/paris-terror-attacks-obama-isis-contained/index.html

    so much for the jv team……..

  18. An Interested Party says:

    you can’t prove a negative, and you can’t reason with savages. you can try smarmy attempts at sounding all so civilized but in the end you’re siding with terrorists as you’re afraid to deal with them from your comfy place.

    Oh my, aren’t you the tough guy! Your words paint you as being as bad as those who got us involved in the Iraq Debacle in the first place…we don’t need to have more Middle East Disasters just so you won’t wet your pants…