Are refugees dangerous?
The short answer: no.
The Cato Institute, an American public policy think tank, found that of the almost 900,000 asylum seekers accepted into the US (largely non-Syrian), only three have been convicted of planning a terrorist attack, none of which were successfully carried out. In comparison to this three out of 900,000 figure, consider that nearly 45 out of every 900,000 American citizens committed murder according to 2015 statistics. Refugees are not more likely to engage in violent or non-violent crime, and claims that they are a threat are greatly exaggerated and not based on concrete data.
In Canada, no Syrian refugee has ever committed an act of terrorism. The idea that refugees pose a threat to host nations is attributed to a small number of attacks in Europe which, as with the 2015 attacks in Paris, were largely carried out by radicalized European nationals. Although Islamic extremism is a very real threat to the global community, it cannot be linked with Syrian refugees who are fleeing for their lives.
Are refugees a burden on the country that accepts them?
Initially, it is necessary for the state to provide for refugees. The negative effects of this aid, however, are limited. For instance, the International Monetary Fund estimates that refugees in Germany will cause a 0.35% increase in public expenditure, while the average EU nation will experience an increase of 0.19%. This small increase in short-term expenditure is offset in the long run, as Syrian refugees contribute to the economy by paying taxes, joining the workforce, and offsetting population decline in the developed world from falling birth rates.
In a Canadian context, incoming Syrian refugees may be seen as a benefit to the Canadian economy. The majority of Syrian refugees are middle-class, middle-aged, and held skilled, professional positions in Syria. For Canada, a nation that is becoming increasingly reliant on immigration to combat population decline and an ageing work force, this provides a unique opportunity. Canadian Business editor-in-chief James Cowen offered an interesting thought along these lines: "Done properly, bringing refugees into our country isn’t about charity. It’s about investing in the future—both theirs and ours."
I've heard about Donald Trump's immigration ban, but what exactly is it?
In essence, the US travel ban stems from an executive order issued by Donald Trump on January 28, 2017. The order stopped the acceptance of all refugees, including Syrians, indefinitely and restricted the entry of citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations into the US. Vox has a great video that explains the original ban fully. The ban was met with immense protest both in the US and globally, with US courts striking down the ban shortly after its announcement.
A second iteration of the ban was issued on March 6, 2017. This version restricted entry on six Muslim-majority nations as opposed to seven, with Iraq being removed, and changed the indefinite ban on refugees to a 120-day ban that would be reviewed and potentially reinstated on a cyclical basis. This was again met with civil and judicial criticism, with two judges in Hawaii and Maryland striking down the ban due to their judgement that the ban was based on anti-Muslim sentiment.
To date, the Trump administration continues to fight the ruling in court, reflecting a policy direction of the American executive branch against accepting Syrian refugees and therefore leaving the crisis unaddressed.
What is the EU-Turkey Deal?
Brought into force in 2016, the agreement between the European Union and the nation of Turkey is meant to limit the number of refugees entering the EU illegally. The Deal states that:
Refugees who arrive in Greece and are not offered asylum must be sent back to Turkey
For every one refugee deported back to Turkey, the EU must accept one Syrian refugee currently in Turkey who meets the standards for asylum
Turkey will receive 4.7 billion Euro in aid from the EU
The EU will revisit the possibility of Turkey becoming a member of the EU
The Deal has been criticized as being inhumane, as conditions in temporary camps in Greece have worsened from the overcrowding of refugees waiting to hear if they qualify for asylum. Additionally, the EU argument that Turkey is a "safe third country" has been questioned by critics who point towards Turkey's poor human rights record, political instability, and authoritarian government as proof that Turkey is not a suitable host nation. Ultimately, the EU-Turkey deal highlights the effort to limit refugee entry into the EU, and reveals how complex such a limitation may be.
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