What the Paris attacks mean for the Refugee Crisis

The depth of kindness, sympathy and solidarity demonstrated in the aftermath of the ISIS attacks last week has been overwhelming. The world came together to condemn extremist ideology, and offer compassion and kindness to the people of Paris, Beirut and Baghdad.

For immigrants and refugees across the region, the attacks mean unfounded condemnation and denunciation. As a result of terrorists’ exploitation of the refugee crisis to gain free movement through Europe, governments soured in their attitude to refugees. Here in the UK, for example, petitions began to circulate calling for the British border to be closed and for refugees to be turned away. Indeed, earlier this week the governments of Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia closed their borders to all refugees except those coming from the most war-torn areas (such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq).

Of course, the priority for European governments is the safety of its citizens. However, this should not negatively impact the lives of millions of innocent refugees. By closing their borders, governments are consciously turning their backs on innocent asylum seekers, who are fleeing the very same group who perpetrated the Paris attacks – Islamic State.

The world showed a resilience against terrorism in the numerous acts of remembrance and honouring over the last week. In refusing to give in to IS’s reign of terror, communities have demonstrated an extraordinary strength against a culture of intolerance, hatred and violence. However, our empathy should not be limited to people on this side of the Mediterranean. What about the millions of people across the Middle East who live in fear of acts of terrorism matching the hatred and violence of the Paris attack?

By closing our borders and turning away thousands of legitimate men, women and children, we are giving in to the IS culture of brutality and fear. The horrific attacks witnessed in Paris occur daily across the Middle East, and European governments and innocent refugees fleeing Syria are fighting the same people.

It is inconceivable that European governments would turn their backs on their own citizens, so why should they turn their backs on refugees? Shutting borders and ignoring the call of refugees amounts to the appeasement of ISIS. Instead, we should channel the same feelings of empathy and compassion seen across the world in the last week into reaching out to refugees fleeing a common enemy.