The vast majority of terror attacks in Europe are carried out by Europe citizens. A report by the Danish Institute for International Studies found that between January 2016 and April 2017, no refugees were involved in terror attacks in Europe. Four asylum-seekers (three of whom had their asylum requests rejected, and two of whom arrived before the refugee crisis started in 2015) were involved in attacks. Nevertheless, the report concludes that the bigger threat by far comes from homegrown extremists.

The UN’s refugee agency defines a refugee as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence”. Most commonly, this indicates people fleeing from violence or political oppression perpetrated by governments. However, it also includes people fleeing from the atrocities carried out by terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State, including in countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, opinion polls suggest that most Europeans believe that accepting refugees will increase the chances of terrorist attacks on European soil. A particular concern is that terrorists might hide within refugee flows as a backdoor into the EU. It is believed that some returning foreign fighters have exploited migrant flows to this end, although research published in 2017 by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has found “no concrete evidence that terrorist travellers systematically use those flows of refugees to enter Europe unnoticed”.

In order to take a closer look at the local impact of the refugee crisis, we have launched our ‘Cities & Refugees‘ project – aimed at fostering a Europe-wide dialogue between citizens, refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs, politicians, and European leaders. The emphasis is on connecting local, everyday life at the city level to decisions made in Brussels and national capitals.

Today, we are looking at Paris, France. In 2017, France had the third-highest amount of first-time asylum applicants in the EU-28 (and, in 2016, Paris was the department with the highest amount of applicants in all of France). It has also suffered some of the most horrific terrorist attacks on European soil in recent years.

In November 2015, Belgian and French citizens (of Moroccan and Algerian extraction), along with two Iraqi citizens, attacked a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars in the city of Paris, killing 130 and injuring hundreds. Coming after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, it made 2015 France’s deadliest year for terrorism-related deaths.

The far-right often argue that accepting refugees means making Europe more vulnerable to terrorists. Many analysts counter that homegrown extremism is a much more significant threat. They argue that overhauling integration policies, as well as implementing effective counter-radicalisation programmes and fostering stronger relationships between minority community leaders and counter-terrorism officials would be a more effective way to tackle terror.

Curious to know more about the experience of refugees and security in Paris? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Marcel, who argues that letting refugees into Europe is making us more vulnerable to terrorism. Is he right?

To get a reaction, we spoke to Sebastien Maire, Chief Resilience Officer of the City of Paris. Part of his job is to help coordinate different departments, making Paris more resilient in the face of unforeseen events such as extreme weather events or terror attacks. What would he say to Marcel?

To get another perspective, we put the same question to Aurélien Legrand, Paris Departmental Secretary for the anti-immigration Front National (FN) party. In the 2017 French presidential elections, the FN’s candidate – Marine Le Pen – made it through to the second round and received roughly 34% of the vote. What would he say?

Not only is he right, but recent examples demonstrate this: multiple terrorists who struck France, notably during the Bataclan attacks, entered among the refugees. Moreover, the Islamic State, which is generally reliable when it utters threats, said it would exploit migration corridors to send jihadists into Europe. So this is no longer some sort of fantasy, it is a documented reality, which unfortunately cost the lives of many in Paris.

Next up, we had a comment sent in from Pedro, who says he’s heard that terrorist attacks in Europe are not being carried out by refugees, but by European citizens. So, is it more a question of integration policies? How would Sebastien Maire respond?

And how would Aurélien Legrand react to the same comment?

It is more complicated than that. Indeed, it is a mixture of both: there are attacks committed by individuals who arrived through refugee channels – we see this continually. Then, there are those who were born and raised in Europe and who, indeed, turn to terrorism. And there, indeed, there is a question of the assimilation of those individuals, our assimilation policy, and the failure of prior assimilation. But it is clear – and this is what we defend at the National Front – that this assimilation cannot be done correctly when there are too many individuals arriving at once on our territory. Today, we are not capable of assimilating the millions of individuals who enter Europe.

Finally, we had a comment sent in from Jai, who thought that criticism of the principle of asylum demonstrates that Europe “talks the talk” when it comes to compassion and internationalism, but never actually “walks the walk”:

Image of a citizenSo, the rights of asylum seekers as enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights are fine as long as there aren’t too many seeking asylum, but the moment there is need based on a real and present danger to life, we think about scrapping the laws? To me that says we are a civilisation that places great value on lofty principles until those principles need to be manifested. Then we revert to self-interest.

How would Aurélien Legrand respond to this comment, given that his party is so critical of current asylum policy? Is it hypocrisy? Especially given that the 1951 UN Refugee Convention was initially founded to help with the problem of European refugees after World War II?

No, this is not hypocrisy. The reality is that that the right to asylum has largely been exploited. We grant asylum, indiscriminately, to individuals who do not need it. In France, for example, the first nationality in terms of political asylum is Albania. It does not seem, to me, that Albania – which is currently applying for EU membership – needs it. We need to decide: either we grant them asylum, or they enter the EU.

In any case, we can see that this right has been misappropriated, and this is something that is very troublesome, as it diverts attention from individuals who truly need it. It is urgent to reform asylum rights, to make it correspond to its initial intent, and actually protect people in great danger. We must denounce today an asylum procedure has been hijacked as an alternative method to gain immigration status. That was never its original objective.

It is worth noting that only 6.5% of requests from Albanian asylum applicants in France are accepted, because Albania is considered a “secure” country. The overall success rate of asylum claims in France in 2017 was 36%.

Has the refugee crisis increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks? Or, given that terror attacks in Europe are perpetrated by homegrown terrorists, is it more a question of social exclusion and flawed integration policies in some EU Member States? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

The Debating Europe “Cities & Refugees” project is co-funded by the European Union’s “Europe for Citizens” program.
IMAGE CREDITS: (c) / BigStock – GeaMedia, PORTRAIT CREDITS: CC – Estelle Arnal
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsi­ble for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

49 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar

    No. It began with the criminal attack over Irak by Aznar, Blair, Bush and Duran Barroso

    • avatar

      Barroso was part of Duran Duran?

  2. avatar

    That might be a valid concern if it were actually the refugees committing the attacks… Turns out it’s second or third generation migrants doing most of them.

  3. avatar

    No but the EU’s self inflicted migrant crisis has & all done so a few fanatics can pretend the EU is one Nation.

  4. avatar

    Terrorist attacks no, but other kinds of crimes like stealing, sexual harassment Yes.
    Most of them are very poor and they need money to survive in the beginning. Also, the young males who come from a different cultural environment believe that a European woman in sexy clothes is a “sl@t” and that they can harass her.

  5. avatar

    Take a look at the people who had committed or attempted to commit terrorist attacks or were arrested for preparing for attacks and check out their origins in relation to the general population make-up of the EU.

    Any group overly represented in relation to their share within the population of the EU can be said that they have a higher likelihood to commit such attacks.

    • avatar

      …. second or third-generation Algerians, Moroccans and Turks? Not exactly countries facing war right now. The issue is Islamist propaganda and lack of proper integration policies.

    • avatar

      This is not correct: we had immigrants who came to Italy with boats… But even if it was correct, let’s pretend… So, since the second generation is not properly integrated we aim to get more immigrants… so that it will magically work out? I don’t get the point.

  6. avatar
    Ivan K.

    This question is problematic because it implies that they could have. People are encouraged in a way to take a yes side on the issue. Terrorism was not created in a vacuum and whoever claims that refugees=terrorists (or criminals in general) are xenophobes and if someone is offended because of that I can only say that xenophobes have it way better than the refugees (unless someone would like to trade places). If the news covered more white collar crime for example (crime done by people in power and mostly white) we would get a different impression of reality now wouldn’t we.

    • avatar

      Ivan nobody is saying that every refugee is a terrorist. The title asks if the refugee crisis increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks and the answer is obviously yes. It was a mistake to bring in people from the islamic culture, a culture with which tge western world has been at war with since hundreds of years off and on, a culture that still to this day discriminates christians, jews, hindus etc. Don’t get me wrong I don’t blame the muslim, I blame our leaders.

      Leaders who were supposed to protect us from the threat of unreformed religion and incompatible culture but who instead chose political correctness because it was not sexy to admit the deficits of islam.
      One of the things that really bothers me about this whole debate is that even if we come to a understanding that Islamic refugees, Islam had something to do with the increasing terrorism in the western world none of these conclusions will result in a substantial change of migration and Refugee policies.
      In closing:- we are willing to sanction a country for all kinds of reasons but we are not willing to sanction a country if it makes life hard for Christians to practice their religion freely, if it was persecutes people simply because they do not follow the state sponsored religion Islam, persecution of homosexuals, women who choose to live freely.

  7. avatar

    No, the refugee crisis did not increase Europe’s vulnerability to terrorism. Europe’s complete lack of control over ideological groups that encourage radicalization has increased it’s vulnerability to terrorism.
    The refugees need help. There is no argument over that. Europe needs to defend it’s values and it’s democracy, but that notion seems to be not in alignment with the “party line”, and that’s where the problem is.

    • avatar

      @Alex What is the penalty for apostasy in Islam which is the religion of many of these refugees?

  8. avatar

    Con lo ius soli lo saranno tutti.

    • avatar

      Studia cosa sia lo #IUSSOLI prima.
      Basta il dibattito dentro l’Italia, non diffonderelo anche in Europa perche anche gli piu severi protezionisti europei riderebbero con l’ignoraza riguardo a questa cosa.
      (E guarda caso l’Italia ha la migliore seconda o terza generazione di immigrati rispetto a tutti gli altri paesi EU. Basta vedere quanti italo-Immigrati di prima-seconda o terza generazione si sono uniti al DAESH)

    • avatar

      Già, non diffondiamo il dibattito nel resto del mondo: lo stanno già abbandonando! Evitiamo di fare la figura degli arretrati, hanno già compreso che è un errore.

  9. avatar

    Politicians and invadors already attack local populations. Tangible example southeast borders and urban areas.

  10. avatar

    Yes, sadly, there have been multiple terrorist attacks on refugee asylums in a number of EU countries.

    • avatar

      Yes, the local neo fascists attacking the refugees

    • avatar

      That is not terrorism. Most of the time refugees burn down these asylum homes because some wrongly believe that this will force the government to give them residence, apartments, houses etc.
      In one case in Germany a asylum seeker burned down a refugee center because he was angry about the food.
      Burning down a building is arson not terrorism.

  11. avatar

    Definitely home grown terrorism is a greater danger and has to be dealt with on several levels such as mentioned in the article.Also may be more information campaigns on why there is a refugee crises and why we continue to be involved in wars that create more refugees….and also more help and cooperation with communities in deradicalisation programs.Also less destruction by the government of refugee camps at Calais f.ex..Surely there are other solutions.

    • avatar

      There is another solution, don’t allow them into France in the first place.

    • avatar

      That would not be fair because most of them are fleeing wars that France is also engaged in.Their homes are destroyed

    • avatar

      Most of the migrants are not fleeing war they are heading for the EU as financial migrants, not refugees.

    • avatar

      this has changed in the recent past ….

  12. avatar

    Not really.
    Refugees are not the problem, some locals are.
    Remember Basque ETA, remember a few Corsican loonies; remember Irish shitheads called IRA, German RAF; Italian brigati rossi, .

    • avatar

      So now we have ALSO islamic terrorism.. a very big deal

  13. avatar
    Paul X

    We it can hardly make attacks any less likely, unless of course the refugees are all trained law enforcement officers

  14. avatar

    Most of the French / Belgian terrorist of N. African ascent came back in Europe from Syria with the flow of migrants of 2015. So the answer to your question is basically : yes.
    But thanks for asking

  15. avatar
    catherine benning

    Has the refugee crisis increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks?

    This question was posed as a sidewinder. In fact it is posed to, once again, fool the public into the idea the policies set out by this political union are open and above board. Which they are not.

    The refugee crisis, as you have named it, was a deliberate act to destroy Europe. Tyrants always want chaos and confusion, it’s the path to domination. The declaration being, we must axe your freedoms, as the murder rate and threats to our life are in danger. Hence ‘all’ Western world data going to Lockheed Martin Corporation.

    However, the danger and threat to our lives have been purposefully instigated by those same politicians who now claim to be our saviours. Read Mein Kampf. It explains political take over very well.

    What I find so incredible, is how many people are willing to go along with the programmed destruction of their one safeguard, their cultural heritage and social cohesion, mixed into national pride. Follow the leader may be the human condition, but, that is supposed to go along with the leader being a master of his own heritage and building on that for the sake of his tribe. This, NWO, is the opposite of saving ones own, it is marching to destroy it. And for very little bribe.

    The West created the ‘refugee’ crisis. And it is creating another as we write. Israel has bombed Syria in parts, it is claimed, that are being looked after by Iran. Whilst doing it under the line of, Iranian people want free of their leaders, so we are their saviours. Of course, it is doing it in order to steal yet another country and is being encouraged by the backing of the West. However, Israel makes very sure it is not being overrun with ‘refugees’ or ‘migrants’ on their soil As those ‘refugees’ may be terrorists in disguise and they, Israel, are too small to contemplate that, they say.

    Israel better hope to God no country decides to drop a couple of ‘big boys’ on it. Which is very possible via the stealth of new technology, because, yes, it is a very small country indeed. They are waiting for and have been for sometime, the Western coalition to come in and defend their ‘Democracy.’ After all, it’s the only one in the entire area and must be preserved.

    This means, more Syrians and probably Iranians as well, are on their way to Europe. Which kills many birds with one stone. The end of the European civilisation, making way for American exceptionalism to stomp all over their faces.

    And of course the refugee crisis increases the likelihood of terrorism. It’s why the West created the problem. It enables ‘reason’ to seek regime change.

  16. avatar

    I would start by asking what people assume terrorism to be. If it is an attack by an individual or group of non-state agents in a peace time environment, then I would argue yes, but not in the way people assume. The fact is that a majority of Western European and American ‘terror’ associated crimes have been perpetrated by citizens of host nations against minorities, and since the evolution of the Syrian refugee crisis there has been a marked increase in these attacks. Additionally, those attacks carried out in the name of extremist groups have tended to be from home actors inspired by the ideologies of radical groups. This is not to downplay the serious and significant attacks carried out by trans-national actors, but the majority of attacks, both against minorities and against the wider public, are carried out by individuals who are based in their home nation, or in the case of France, just across the boarder.

  17. avatar

    The world powers wars increase the immigration and refugees. With them potentially some terrorists arrive. The vast majority of are men of fighting age.

    NGOs assist entry, anyone who refuses is called a xenophobic racist blah blah.
    If Nations near Seas and entry points started blocking entry the fake news would scream “fascist, nazi”.

    Kalergis plan and the elites are rolling along ignoring the populations. Only a few countries listened to the people on this issue.

    What has definitely increased is crime levels.
    Essentially pockets of some cities are like third world.

  18. avatar

    That’s a statement of facts, not a question. It’s obvious causality, not a correlation only.

  19. avatar

    I do not want to live with people who have backward views like in Saudi Arabia and Iran. The importation of these people has already caused the problems we are having to fix right now. What came first the chicken or the egg?

  20. avatar

    Of course…but given that the refugee “crisis” is centred mostly in states in middle East ( Syria..Lebanon…iraq…Yemen etc)….that’s where most attacks will made.

  21. avatar

    Hmmm… let’s ask Japan and China, and see why islamic terrorism is not happening there.

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