I am sure it is spreading; it is Islam, after all. But ISIS arrived with the refugees, as they promised they would do.
Top US Commander in Europe: Terrorists, Returning Fighters Now a ‘Daily’ Part of Refugee Flow
The top U.S. military commander in Europe told lawmakers Tuesday that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) is infiltrating the ranks of refugees entering Europe, and that terrorists, returning foreign fighters and criminals are now part of the “daily” flow. (CNS)
Asked by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) whether ISIS will continue to try to infiltrate refugee flows, U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “I think that they are doing that today.”
” Nato commander: Isis ‘spreading like cancer’ among refugees,” By Alan Yuhas
Philip Breedlove says refugees are ‘masking the movement’ of terrorists, but human rights groups disagree: ‘We are talking about needles in haystacks’
Refugees from the Middle East and north Africa are “masking the movement” of terrorists and criminals, Nato’s top commander told Congress on Tuesday, despite the protests of human rights groups who say that refugees overwhelmingly have no ulterior motive but escape.
In testimony to the Senate armed services committee, US general Philip Breedlove said that the Islamic State terror group is “spreading like a cancer” among refugees. The group’s members are “taking advantage of paths of least resistance, threatening European nations and our own”, he added.
Breedlove also blamed Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, in support of autocratic leader Bashar al-Assad, for having “wildly exacerbated the problem”.
The airstrikes, nominally against Isis but largely against the various rebel groups arrayed against Assad, have allegedly killed more than 1,000 civilians, including children. Breedlove said these indiscriminate attacks mean to terrorize Syrians and “get them on the road” toward neighboring countries and Europe.
The Kremlin and Assad intend, according to Breedlove, to use migration as a weapon to weaken European unity and infrastructure. The general said that European nationalist groups that oppose immigration also weaken the continent, and could themselves threaten violence.
Since taking command in 2013, Breedlove has pushed for an aggressive refortification of Europe, calling Russia a “long-term existential threat” to the US, and suggested Europe and the US should do more to counter Assad and Isis in Syria.
Pressed by reporters to back up his assertion with statistics, Breedlove said: “I can’t give you a number on the estimate of the flow.”
Breedlove distinguished between “criminality, terrorist and foreign fighters”, and said that he has seen news reports saying as many as 1,500 fighters have returned to Europe.
“I’m not going to talk to you about intelligence,” he said at a news conference, adding that “many [countries] are saying they see planning happening” for a terrorist attack.
Thinktank and congressional estimates of how many foreign fighters have traveled to Syria vary widely, with 1,500 toward the higher end of numbers of fighters reported to have returned to western nations.
Though Breedlove’s remarks on Tuesday echoed fears voiced by many in the wake of Paris terror attacks last November, human rights activists have stressed that nearly all of those attackers were French or Belgian. Only an extraordinarily small minority of refugees even sympathize with terror groups, activists said.
“We are talking about needles in haystacks,” said Bill Frelick, the director of the refugee rights program for Human Rights Watch. “It’s not to say that there aren’t dangerous needles in those haystacks, but overwhelmingly we’re talking about people who are seeking protection and bear no ill will, and I would say in fact bear gratitude to anyone who’s willing to help them.”
Frelick said that Breedlove’s remarks reflected the refugee crisis “through a military prism”.
“It’s important that none of us dismiss security concerns,” he said, “but pushing people back into the fire can create a domino effect, like closed borders in Hungary, Greece, Turkey, that’s potentially every bit as destabilizing as the kinds of fears Gen Breedlove is talking about.”
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Amnesty International has similarly called for governments not to exacerbate the crisis by blocking refugees. “Giving in to fear in the wake of the atrocious attacks on Paris will not protect anyone,” Amnesty director John Dalhuisen said in the aftermath of the attacks.
A failure to give shelter “would be a cowardly abdication of responsibility and a tragic victory for terror over humanity”, he added.
Counter-terror experts have agreed that although wars in the Middle East and north Africa have increased the flow of weapons into Europe, most terror suspects and perpetrators have been “homegrown” radicals and sympathizers.
There is “a huge reservoir of sympathizers who all have western or European passports and who were born or raised there,” Reinoud Leenders, a professor at the department of war studies at King’s College London, told the Los Angeles Times last year.
More than 4.5 million people have fled the Syrian civil war since it began in 2011, and hundreds of thousands more have fled wars in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan have taken in most of those refugees, often in sprawling and struggling camps. The UN estimates that more than 300,000 people have tried to flee across the Mediterranean, and that thousands have died in the attempt. Last month, Nato joined regional patrols to combat human and weapons smuggling across the sea.
Only 2,647 Syrian refugees have resettled in the United States since 2011, after passing through an arduous vetting and resettlement program. From 1 October 2001 to this month, the US accepted 806,900 refugees via the resettlement program; only five have been arrested on terrorism charges, according to the State Department and the Migration Policy Institute.
The UK has accepted about 200 people, in contrast to the tens of thousands taken in by Germany and Sweden. The White House has said it hopes to have accepted 10,000 refugees by the end of 2016, and 10 Downing St has said the UK could accept 20,000 over five years. European leaders have been sharply divided about whether to continue accepting refugees, especially after high-profile incidents including sexual assaults in Germany, the destruction of refugee camps in France and the identification of war criminals in the Netherlands.
Conservative leaders in the US have resisted refugee resettlement programs, and several governors have ordered a halt to funding. A federal court overturned one such order on Tuesday, saying it “clearly discriminates” against refugees. And contrary to the claims of several Republican candidates for president, most Syrian refugees are not young men but children aged 17 or younger.