After an initial wave of support, some people are having second thoughts about allowing large numbers of Syrian refugees to enter their countries after last Friday’s attacks in Paris.
The reaction has been nearly immediate. Already, the governors of 26 U.S. states have said they’d refuse any attempt to relocate refugees within their state borders. This comes after an unverified Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the Paris attackers.
Either way, the attacks have caused some people to change their stance about bringing in Syrian refugees, which Lifeline Syria worker Peter Goodspeed says is the wrong decision.
“You know what, they’re just people like us. They’re exactly like us but they’ve been driven from their homes. They’re innocent civilians caught in a vicious war with a lot of blood and incredible violence. It’s horrendous,” he said, noting that 250,000 people have been killed in Syria over the last four years.
“In the west, we haven’t paid an awful lot of attention to it until you suddenly had these people rushing the borders and desperately trying to get out.We can’t turn our backs on them just because we’re afraid.”
Goodspeed said that many are still extremely concerned about the plight of Syrian refugees, but they’re looking out for their own safety as well. He notes that the combination of security checks, along with exactly who is emigrating, makes for a less frightening picture.
“Lots of times, there’s people with families, or there may be widows with children, elderly people that have had their homes destroyed. None of those people are security threats,” he said. “Before they’re even selected as a possible resettlement, they’re screened. Anybody that could possibly have any kind of question would not be included in the initial intake.”
A Citizenship and Immigration Canada representative said the department is committed to bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada and that “effective security and health screening has always been central to our planning around Syrian refugees.”
Regardless of the screening process, many say that accepting the refugees is something of a duty.
“I believe that we should be taking these people in. It’s just kind of what humans do for other humans,” said 22-year-old Humber College student Will Checkevis. “It’s not a political thing, we don’t owe them anything. It’s just what humans should do.”
Checkevis said that he doesn’t believe painting the refugees as extremists is remotely fair, and that “[extremists] are the people that [refugees] are running from.”
“The refugees themselves have experienced exactly what the people in France have experienced now,” Goodspeed said. “I think one of the reasons we have a problem now is because we didn’t help soon enough.”