Refugee Politics: Security

Obviously, German political discourse, particularly around state elections like the recent one on the Baltic coast or in Berlin, and looking forward to next year’s federal election, continue to be animated by Chancellor Merkel’s surprising response to refugees, “We’ll manage [very large numbers]”.

Absent from this discussion is the reaction that is much more prevalent in parts of Canadian politics and certainly in the U.S., i.e. refugees are a huge security risk because the large volume of people will allow terrorists to hide.

I am fairly certain that the humanity of accepting refugees sends a strong signal to those refugees and others around the world that can be a very important element in a response to extremism by making radicalization much less likely. I would thus claim that a million refugees who are welcomed will include a smaller absolute number of radicals, then 25,000 refugees who are stigmatized and heavily screened for security, an effort that ultimately seems somewhat futile.

Current German news seems to confirm this view somewhat.

On Sept 13, three radicals who seemed to be IS-affiliated and were possible planning attacks were arrested. They had entered Germany as “refugees”. The by-no-means-instinctively-liberal interior minister, Thomas de Mazière, noted very pointedly during the announcement, that these three arrest were among a tiny number of total arrests, 60, among hundreds of thousands of refugees. Who knows what will happen with the large number of refugees in Germany in coming years, and perhaps they will become a population that will be entangled in radicalism and seemingly fundamental cleavages within a society and across. But, I strongly suspect that the ratio of 60/500,000 is likely to be lower in the long run than whatever ratio may be the equivalent for countries that have only accepted very few refugees.

As an example of that point, the paper in the same issue reported on the case of a Syrian refugee who has joined the Christian-Democrats in Saxonia out of admiration for Chancellor Merkel’s decisions to welcome refugees. While this is a single case that is receiving attention for its symbolic nature and impact, this is precisely the kind of dynamic that I was imagining above, i.e. this individual and those in his community strike me as very unlikely to be involved in radical or violent movements and are much more likely to defend against such movements which they fled in the first place.

In the same issue of the Berliner Zeitung, a columnist I mentioned recently, Andrea Vales also had a column where she argued that the refugee movements are caused by terrorism so that they should not be associated with causes for the rise of radicalism.

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