Has immigration contributed to the growing threat of terrorism? Would Europe be safer if it no longer took in refugees? Such debate diverts attention from the real problems, DW's Verica Spasovska writes.
It was inevitable: As a reaction to the horrible attacks in Brussels, politicians all over Europe spoke out. Many of them attempted to forge a link between terrorism and refugees who have come to Europe. "I say very clearly that I see no possibility at this time of immigrants coming to Poland," Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto claimed that the risk of terrorism has risen because of "uncontrolled migration." Across Europe, right-wing politicians attempted to link refugees to the attacks. "This has nothing to do with nothing," Alternative for Germany's Beatrix von Storch wrote sarcastically on Twitter.
These politicians are overlooking the fact that the named assailants have nothing to do with refugees. The perpetrators of the attack were born in Belgium and were Belgian citizens.
Associating the terrorists with the thousands of people fleeing to Europe has become the excuse used by some countries to shirk their EU responsibilities, as is the case in Poland, where the government is not even willing to accept 4,000 refugees in the entire year of 2016. Such statements go over well with voters at home. They suggest that public safety is the motivation for not taking refugees in, but this attitude merely exploits the most contemptible form of resentment against people in need. Refugees are fleeing because they fear for their lives in their home countries or they hope to find more sustainable conditions in Europe for their children. It is understandable that many refugees now fear being branded potential terrorists.
Cheap propaganda against refugees plays into terrorists' hands. The "Islamic State" aims to deepen social polarization in Europe under the logic that the more marginalized Muslims are, the more susceptible to radicalization they will become. That is, the group believes, how more attacks will occur in the name of IS's "caliphate."
Widespread security failures
Those who put refugees under general suspicion should remember that the mass exodus of displaced people from lands controlled by IS is quite inopportune for the group's demagogues. The fact that so many people are fleeing IS territory shows that hundreds of thousands of people reject the regime's terror. Real political power has a different impact.
The responsibility for infiltrating and monitoring suspicious activities to prevent attacks lies with intelligence and security agencies, which have seriously failed - and particularly in Belgium. The more details are disclosed, the more disastrous the picture looks. Belgian authorities not only ignored information about the travels of the killers ahead of the attacks, but also tips from Turkey, which revealed that one of the assailants was a dangerous extremist. For months, authorities were unable to find the now detained ringleader of November's attacks in Paris, even though he was living in the heart of Brussels. Then there is the question of why the eventual Brussels bombers had been prematurely released from prison. How is it possible that common criminals become fanatics in Belgian prisons and then get let out early even though they have no positive prospects for the future?
After the attacks in Belgium, authorities must belatedly address the striking list of faults in the infrastructures needed to combat terrorism. More staff, better communication among regional authorities, increased exchange of information between neighboring countries - all of these factors must quickly be addressed. Those who scapegoat refugees are only diverting attention from the real problems in the battle against terrorism.
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