Two in every 100 Syrian migrants are likely to be Islamic State fighters, a Lebanese minister has warned David Cameron. Britain has agreed to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next few years. If the minister’s warning is correct, as many as 400 of them could be trained terrorists.
During his meeting with the Prime Minister, who recently conducted a brief visit to the region, Education Minister Elias Bousaab warned that ISIS are sending terrorists “under cover” to attack Western targets, the Daily Mail has reported.
He explained that jihadists choose targets to radicalise, including children, in refugee camps and schools before trafficking them into Europe via Turkey and Greece.
“My gut feeling is yes they are facilitating such an operation,” he said. “Yes of course to go to Europe and other places. You may have let’s say two per cent [of refugees] that could be radicals.
“I would say anyone who works together to combat Isis this is the solution because Isis is growing and mushrooming. It’s becoming a danger because they are recruiting kids from schools, they are recruiting everywhere.
“It’s a very dangerous situation and the world should wake up and do something about that. ISIS will not stop at the border with Lebanon, before you know it Isis will be in Europe.”
Currently, Mr Bousaab believes that Isis have not developed to the point at which they are organised enough “that they can do that [crossing] on their own.” However, he added: “You see them arriving in places – they are all dressed with something, unified, uniform, vests.”
He believes the solution is to provide the people in refugee camps with real opportunities so that they are not tempted to join the radicals.
“In my opinion for the refugees we can help them to stay where they are if they get proper health, proper education, proper food,” he said. “[People with] no hope, no work, no education and who are poor could be easy to recruit.
“We talk about these children that are supposed to be in school. But if you think about it, if you have a child that is out of school for two or three years it is very difficult after three or four years to bring your child back into school.
“So what we end up having is a lost generation. Now we are risking losing an entire generation.”
Mr Cameron was in the region to see how Britain’s £1 billion of aid spending is being used. Visiting refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan during the 24 hour visit, he said that without aid spending, hundreds of thousands more could join those who have already made the crossing into Europe.
Mr Bousaab’s comments echo those of Pope Francis, who, in an interview with a Portugese radio station, admitted that the migrant crisis posed an increased risk of terrorism, especially to Italy. “It’s true, nowadays, territorial security conditions are not the same as they were in other periods (of mass migration),” he said.
“The truth is that just 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Sicily there is an incredibly cruel terrorist group. So there is a danger of infiltration, this is true.”
This is not the first time that warnings of undercover terrorists mingled in with asylum seekers have been issued. Back in March, the head of the European Union’s counter-terrorism group, Gilles de Kerchove, said: “We must be vigilant. It is relatively easy to enter into the European Union when one joins an influx of refugees.”
Evidence is already emerging that IS fighters are indeed among those making the journey west. A fortnight ago five men were arrested as they attempted to cross the Bulgarian/Macedonian border. The men, posing as refugees, had videos of decapitations and Islamic State propaganda on their phones.
The risk has prompted the right wing mayor of Roanne France to state that the town will only accept Christian refugees. Mayor Yves Nicolin told French media it was inevitable that jihadists would be among the wave of migrants, saying: “What I hope is that we can be absolutely certain that they are not masked terrorists… That’s the reason for asking for Christian refugees, which would provide a sufficient guarantee.”