Why refugees shouldn't suffer because of terror attacks
Vast majority of Syrians flocking to Europe have lived under the threat of indiscriminate attacks on civilians
The barbarity inflicted on innocent civilians during the ISIS-executed attacks in Brussels last week should not be capitalized on as a chance to abandon the Syrian refugees fleeing similar horror.
It is undeniable that the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians flocking to Europe have lived under the threat of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, that have killed and maim the most innocent of parties; for years, first by Bashar al-Assad’s criminal regime - the chief orchestrator of the entire conflict – and then by ISIS and other actors.
Syrian civilians have been denied any semblance of safety. While cooperation among intelligence agencies across Europe is intensified and domestic security measures are elevated, the West must also remain committed to aiding refugees.
Most unfortunately, in the wake of the devastating attacks on the Belgium capital, Poland’s ruling right-wing government, led by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, announced they would close their doors to the 7,000 refugees they had previously vowed to take in, stating Poland is suddenly “not able to accept immigrants.”
Such a reversal is not merely reprehensible because the government is cynically using the Brussel attacks as an opportunity to abandon its commitment to refugees but also because it awards ISIS propaganda fodder; there is perhaps no group more in favor of the West abandoning Syrian refugees than ISIS.
It should not be forgotten that three days after after ISIS viciously attacked the French capital, President Francois Hollande publicly confirmed that 30,000 refugees would still be absorbed into his country over a two-year period. The president noted, “Our country has the duty to respect this commitment." His remarks were reportedly met with standing applause. In the aftermath of such attacks, the West must follow France’s – not Poland’s – example.
While cooperation among intelligence agencies across Europe is intensified and domestic security measures are elevated, the West must also remain committed to aiding refugeesBrooklyn Middleton
The deal with Turkey
The attacks in Brussels came days after the European Union struck a deal with Turkey that ultimately seeks to halt the mass influx of refugees into Europe by immediately deporting all who enter through the Aegean Sea back to Turkish soil. The Washington Post reported that Turkey - a country which is currently engaged in renewed conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and increasingly being targeted by ISIS - will receive $6.6 billion in exchange for dealing with Europe’s staggering refugee crisis.
There are a myriad of issues with this arrangement, which Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has intensely and publicly criticized. In a press release announcing that it will shut down its operations in the Lesvos Transit Camp, MSF officials said they would not support a system, “that has no regard for the humanitarian or protection needs of asylum seekers and migrants.” Beyond the immediate humanitarian concerns, it is difficult to assess Turkish officials can ensure comprehensive security for the refugees being returned to Turkey in the near-term.
Turkey is confronting a broad range of domestic security threats, with Kurdish and ISIS suicide bombing attacks increasingly targeting civilians and military personnel across its major urban centers. It is possible that the refugees being deported back to Turkey will be viciously targeted in such future attacks. This flawed deal should now see the EU not just economically and diplomatically supporting Ankara but also offering all available resources to help ensure the country’s security.
The horrifying attacks in Brussels were the work of depraved cowards seeking to terrorize Westerners for a long time. Recognizing that such indiscriminate killing of civilians is precisely what so many Syrian families are fleeing is the opposite of what Assad and ISIS wants – and it is precisely what we must do.
Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst currently based in New York City. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as Bashar al-Assad's continued crimes against his own people. She recently finished her MA thesis on Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, completing her Master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.
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