Rights groups concerned over dangers of xenophobia amid refugee influx
by Daily Sabah with Wires
ISTANBULDec 22, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Wires
Dec 22, 2015 12:00 am
The anti-migrant sentiment taking hold in a slew of nations facing an influx of refugees is disturbing, dangerous and puts people's lives at risk, the director-general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), William Lacy Swing, said. Concern and suspicion about migrants is based on stereotypes, fear of a loss of national identity and a "post-9/11 security syndrome," Swing said.
"Every person entering from abroad is potentially a terrorist, exacerbated now with what happened in Paris," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview. The Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people, have triggered concern that extremist militants could enter Europe amid the thousands of arriving migrants and prompted calls for nations to tighten their borders.
The waves of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere fleeing conflict-ridden homelands have fueled an "unprecedented anti-migrant sentiment," he said. "We're very disturbed at the widespread anti-migrant sentiment that can lead to xenophobia and risks to migrants," he said. "The concern I have about a lot of statements that are being made on the public record right now is that it puts migrant lives at risk."
The head of the IOM, which has 162 member states and offices in more than 100 countries, spoke to the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a visit to New York. Showing evidence that migrants contribute to productive societies is part of solving the current crisis, Swing said: "All of our countries have always been open to new … people and it's always benefited us." "So you have to come back to that again and again and give them figures, give them data, show them." With more than 200 staffers in Syria, the IOM has helped more than 3.6 million people there with services including shelter, water and sanitation, an IOM spokesman said.
Asked if he would consider reaching out to political leaders stoking anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe and the United States, Swing said: "We may have to. We probably will have to." Swing said he would ask that they "look inside their own souls and see how they evaluate how the U.S. and other countries developed with migrant labor and migrant brain power." Swing has publicly praised German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door refugee policy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has pledged to take in 10,000 Syrian refugees by the new year.
Meanwhile, the U.N.'s refugee chief, Antonio Guterres, said Monday that people who reject refugees because they are Muslims are the best allies of DAESH and other terrorist groups. Guterres's remarks at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria came in the wake of U.S. Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump's proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the country.
While acknowledging the possibility that terrorists could try to infiltrate refugee movements, Guterres said those fleeting warzones cannot be blamed for a threat from "which they're risking their lives to escape." "Those that reject Syrian refugees because they are Muslims are the best allies in the recruitment propaganda of extremist groups," he said.
On Saturday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also said Trump's remarks made him DAESH's "best recruiter." "They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more extremists," Clinton said during a televised Democratic presidential debate.
The front-runner in polls ahead of the 2016Republican primaries, Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the U.S. in the wake of the San Bernardino attack in which 14 people were killed by two suspected DAESH sympathizers. His statement has been largely condemned both in the U.S. and worldwide. "We must not forget that, despite the rhetoric we are hearing these days, refugees are the first victims of such terror, not its source," Guterres said.
The turmoil in the Middle East and the five-year war in Syria have led many people to flee the conflict in an attempt to seek security and shelter in a more prosperous and peaceful country, such as those in the EU. The Syrian civil war has made the country the world's single-largest source of refugees and displaced people, as more than 4.3 million Syrians are now refugees and at least 7.6 million have been internally displaced since the war erupted in March 2011, according to U.N. figures. It has also claimed more than 250,000 lives. Neighboring Turkey, which is now has the largest refugee population in the world, has spent nearly $8 billion for more than 2 million Syrian refugees in the country.
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