By Mary Berg
The Crown (Wilmette, Illinois)
Over the next few days WANT will be featuring content from Crown writers as part of special series on terrorism and the attacks in Paris.
As investigations and manhunts continue after the Paris attacks, one alarming fact has come to light: two of the attackers came into the country posing as Syrian refugees. The first suicide bomber in the attack on the Stade de France entered Europe through the Greek island of Leros, reportedly posing as a refugee. He used a fake Syrian passport under the name ‘Ahmad al-Mohammad,’ which authorities believe is a pseudonym. Another attacker traveled with him, and authorities have called this man ‘M al-Mahmod.’ He was the third attacker to detonate a suicide belt at the Stade de France.
These two attackers managed to get to Paris with the flow of Syrian refugees. In Leros, the attendants checking their passports did not recognize the counterfeits, and solely fingerprinted and documented their arrival since they seemed to have the correct documents. In areas such as Leros in Greece where the influx of refugees is much greater than authorities can handle, often the security teams do not have the resources or time to thoroughly scan official documents.
These two attackers were the only two to have come directly from the Middle East to attack Paris– the others were French and Belgian nationals, which have all been apprehended or killed, except one who is still being pursued. However, their cover as Syrian refugees has serious implications.
Across Europe and the United States, politicians have taken aggressive stances against allowing refugees into their respective countries as a result of the Paris attacks.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right-wing National Front party in France, said last week that, “Islamist fundamentalism must be annihilated. France must ban Islamist organizations, close radical mosques and expel foreigners who preach hatred in our country as well as illegal migrants who have nothing to do here.”
This ideal has taken off in the United States as well, where 31 state governors have announced plans to do all that is possible to prevent refugees from being resettled in their state for fear of jihadists, or have said that they would only allow Christians migrants. All but one of these governors is a member of the GOP.
Additionally, Congress last week passed a bill “suspending the program allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the U.S. until key national security agencies certify they don’t pose a security risk,” says CNN.
However, President Obama maintains that he will do whatever he can to allow refugees to be resettled in the United States, and criticized his GOP opponents of being scared of ‘widows and orphans.’
French President Francois Hollande has also cited his country’s “humanitarian duty” to still resettle 30,000 migrants in need of adequate living conditions, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also committed to resettling 25,000 refugees by the end of the year.
It is understandable that no one wants to see anything close to what happened in Paris happen again– however, improving security screening is far different than preventing an entire population of refugees the chance at a new life away from the constant war and unrest they have come to know. We must remain compassionate towards this group of people who have been affected by terrible violence in their country, of which the overwhelming majority are not terrorists who pose any threat to the United States or any other country.
Photo Credit: Bengin Ahmad