The moral and strategic case for taking in Syrian refugees

25 November 2015 2:20 pm


The refugee crisis has transformed global politics. All around Europe, the refugee crisis has galvanised far right parties. In the US, Donald Trump has been pushing for them all to be registered, tracked and have their mosques closed. Australia, the only Western country to lock refugees up in detention camps instead of allowing them to live in the community while their claims are processed, has been castigated by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon for its policies towards asylum seekers.

Which is all quite ridiculous when you consider the moral and strategic reasons for taking in refugees

As Ilya Somin, Professor of Law at George Mason University argues, the moral case for allowing them to migrate freely is even stronger than for most other migrants given that they are fleeing the brutal oppression and terrorism of ISIS – the very force we are fighting against - while others are fleeing the mass-murdering regime of Bashar Assad, which at this point is only modestly less oppressive than ISIS.

Even aside from moral and humanitarian considerations, he says, taking in refugees is in the strategic interest of the US and its allies. Republican immigration restrictionists and European right-wing nationalists are not the only ones who oppose letting Syrian refugees settle in the West.

“ISIS feels exactly the same way,’’ Somin says. “They vehemently oppose refugee resettlement in the West for a variety of reasons. Among other things, they fear that this will weaken it by reducing the number of people under their rule.”

Islamic State, the world’s richest terrorist organisation, doesn’t want to lose these people because it needs them for money. According to the RAND Corporation, Islamic State collected over $1.2 billion in 2014 and $600 million of it came from extortion and taxation. Only $100 million from oil infrastructure.

The bottom line is that Islamic State relies heavily on foreign fighters and devotes considerable effort both finding and cultivating new conscripts. And with air strikes hammering rebel strongholds across Syria and Iraq, it needs as much new cannon fodder as possible to stay in the fight.

To accomplish this goal, IS has repeatedly stated that it wants Muslims in Western countries to face increased persecution, because they believe this will catalyze a hijra (migration) to their lands.

So the attacks in Paris were designed to incite violence against local Muslim communities in order to facilitate recruitment and force migration to the Islamic State.

There is a strong moral and strategic case for taking in refugees. It also destroys the jihadi narrative.