Speed Reads

a lesson in history

Why resettling refugees in America is the safest option

President Trump's revised immigration executive order shut down the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program for 120 days, a step of caution he and others have argued is necessary because of the danger refugees could pose to the United States. Terrorists will slip in among those legitimately seeking safe haven from war and famine in their home country, the thinking goes, so the safe choice is to limit or abolish refugee admissions entirely.

But a Washington Post analysis of recent refugee history suggests otherwise. Looking at the Afghan refugee crisis of prior decades, the Post finds refugees who are not resettled to a permanent new home in a safe nation are often prime targets for terrorist recruitment:

The concentration of refugees in the poorest regions of countries in the Middle East echoes the plight of refugees from the conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, when over three million Afghan refugees fled to Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion. ... These camps became the primary recruiting ground for some of the most radical and brutal mujahidin militias, particularly Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami. The Taliban movement began among Afghan refugees studying in seminaries in northwest Pakistan. These refugee camps have remained a key recruitment ground for the Taliban and continue to destabilize Pakistan. [The Washington Post]

The parallels to the Syrian refugee crisis are not exact, but in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon today, communities of Syrian refugees kept in camps or other temporary housing have seen violence and extremism increase as refugees are stuck in a state of limbo, unable to put down roots or find gainful employment to occupy their time.