WASHINGTON, DC – Countries across Europe and states across the United States are debating the danger of admitting more refugees from Syria or, indeed, any majority Muslim country where Al Qaeda or Islamic State (ISIS) members or sympathizers could slip in with their families. This debate misses the point in two important ways.
First, no evidence yet exists that any of the Paris attackers actually came from Syria as refugees. The Syrian passport found near the body of one attacker appears to have been stolen. The attackers that the police have identified grew up in Belgium or France. They are radicalized citizens, not fleeing foreigners.
Second, the world now has 60 million refugees. That is a number roughly the size of six Belgiums, Hungarys, or Swedens. If they were to create their own country, it would be the size of France. In the face of such staggering numbers, commitments to take thousands or even tens of thousands of people will do almost nothing to alleviate the misery of millions.
Rather than conflating the issues of refugees and terrorism, politicians and policymakers should be addressing each separately. On the question of refugees, Western countries should take in as many as their populations can assimilate, demonstrating a willingness to make good on the universal values they profess for both moral and political reasons.