WASHINGTON, D.C. — Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists and other terrorists are committed to infiltrating the Syrian refugee resettlement flow into Western countries such as the United States, according to the preliminary findings of a House panel review.
The Obama administration plans to escalate the admission of Syrian refugees into the U.S., including allowing at least 10,000 to resettle across the country over the course of fiscal year 2016 (Oct. 1, 2015 thru Sept. 30, 2016).
The civil war in Syria has driven more than four million Syrians out of their home country, contributing to the largest refugee crisis since World War II.
United Nations data shows that more than half a million of the refugees have either traveled to Europe to seek asylum or are a trying to resettle elsewhere in the West, including America.
“A review by the Majority Staff of the House Homeland Security Committee concludes that the [Obama] Administration’s proposal will have a limited impact on alleviating the overall crisis but could have serious ramifications for U.S. homeland security,” notes the panel in a report containing its findings titled, Syrian Refugee Flows: Security Risks and Counterterrorism Challenges. “Additionally, widespread security gaps across Europe are increasing the terrorism risk to our allies and present long-term implications for the U.S. homeland.”
One of the ten preliminary findings is that “Islamist terrorists are determined to infiltrate refugee flows to enter the West—and appear to already have done so in Europe.”
To back that conclusion, the House panel mentions that at least one of the terrorists responsible for the Nov. 13 attacks, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility, is suspected of having entered France as a refugee.
“In the days leading up to the Paris attacks, officials in Europe warned that ISIS was deliberately targeting these [refugee flow] routes,” adds the report, further declaring that “warnings have been mounting that ISIS is focused on deploying operatives to the West, especially Europe.”
The Syria civil war zone has become “a factory of jihadists trained to hit France and Europe in the very near future,” said a French citizen who returned from Syria, according to recent report from France’s Justice Ministry.
Some Syrian refugees have indicated that they have witnessed suspected ISIS jihadists among them.
“An international terrorism research organization published a bulletin in September warning that there were already a number of reported cases of ISIS in infiltration of refugee routes,” reports the House panel.
Republicans have urged the President Obama to halt the U.S. refugee resettlement program in light of the suspected involvement in the recent Paris attacks of an ISIS-linked terrorist posing as a refugee.
The other preliminary findings of the House Homeland Security Committee review include:
- While America has a proud tradition of refugee resettlement, the United States lacks the information needed to confidently screen refugees from the Syria conflict zone to identify possible terrorism connections.
- Despite security enhancements to the vetting process, senior officials remain concerned about the risks and acknowledge the possibility of ISIS infiltration into U.S.-bound Syrian refugee populations.
- Surging admissions of Syrian refugees into the United States is likely to result in an increase in federal law enforcement’s counterterrorism caseload.
- Europe’s open borders are a “cause célèbre” for jihadists.
- European governments face substantial obstacles to information-sharing and are stymied by a lack of internal border checks in their efforts to keep track of terrorist suspects
- Glaring security gaps along refugee routes into Europe—especially lax security screening of travelers—make the pathway highly susceptible to terrorist exploitation.
- Mediterranean and Balkan countries risk becoming a new “terrorist turnpike” into the West due to particularly poor information sharing and weak vetting systems.
- Syrian refugee populations in Europe have already been directly targeted by extremists for recruitment, and in the long run certain communities in which they resettle are likely to become “fertile soil” for violent radicalization.
- America’s security is put at risk when partner countries fail to conduct adequate counterterrorism checks on refugees and are unable to cope with the radicalization challenges created by mass migration.