I have spent a long time over the last few days, watching the rolling news coverage of the tragic events in Paris. As more details emerge about the victims, and those responsible, the news media here has latched on to one thing in particular.
One of the attackers had only recently arrived in France. He travelled through Greece and Serbia during October as part of the large number of people fleeing from the war in Syria, seeking refuge in Europe. News reporters and respected political commentators are now seizing on this, and asking the obvious question. How many others are claiming to be refugees, when their intentions are to carry out attacks in Europe?
The British Home Secretary was asked this very question on the BBC this morning. She was quick to calm any fears about those arriving in the UK, as she was sure that they had been vetted sufficiently by the UNHCR. That is hardly the point though. It was always a possibility that some militants would arrive under the cover of being refugees, and this is virtually impossible to stop. Once in Europe, they could team up with those born here, or already living here, and carry out their plans. For that matter, they could arrive posing as affluent tourists or businessmen, on scheduled airlines, or by train. Anyone determined and fanatical enough to want to do these things is always going to find a way to get into Europe.
The damage they have done to their victims is now a matter of record, and will forever be reviled. But what of the damage done to the innocent refugees, people mostly of the same religion, seeking shelter in a far-off European capital? They will now have to live under suspicion, suffering the backlash from nationals of those countries who will no longer trust them, and may even attack them in some idea of revenge. Right-wing parties and political extremists will enjoy renewed support; and the closing of borders, as well as the removal of previous travel agreements and concessions does not bode well for those refugees still hoping to find peace, and a new life.