Refugees are not ‘security threat,’ says IOM chief

IOM Director-General Swing says EU should refrain from marking refugees as ‘security threat’

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Director-General of the IOM, William Lacy Swing, speaks during the launch of the inter-agency funding appeal for the Central African Republic

The Director General of the International Organisation for Migration William Lacy Swing said on Sunday that Europe must refrain from its views on refugees as a “security threat.”

Lacy made his comments in an interview to the Associated Press, following the New Year’s Eve incidents in Cologne, Germany and November’s attacks in Paris.

Swing said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germans in general deserve "a lot of praise and credit" for taking in large numbers of refugees, "and I think one should not let the terrible incident that happened in Cologne mar what is a very good approach to the issue."

Germany took around a million refugees with its open-door policy, despite the pressure it faced from Christian democrats and the anti-refugee protests across the country.

Additionally, Merkel also faced external pressure from European Union member countries, which were reluctant to take significant numbers of refugees.

The incidents in Cologne -a string of robberies and sexual assaults- were blamed largely on foreigners, with some suspects identified as asylum seekers.

The Paris attacks in November had already fueled anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe.

"We don't want now, because of what happened in Paris and what happened in Cologne, suddenly to link refugees, who are fleeing terrorism ... with some kind of security threat," Swing said.

"We have to find a way, and I know Germany's really trying to do that now, how do we give the compelling argument to our people that, historically, migration has always been a very positive force in the lives of countries?" He added.

The former American diplomat, Swing, noted that the US was built on the backs of refugees and with the talent and brains of refugees.

But, more than 20 US governors, as well as the Republican presidential candidate front-runner, Donald Trump, have vowed they will stop the settlement of Syrian refugees in their states.

Trump has said that the Syrian refugees might come to the United States “through the weakness of Obama," but they will return to their country if he becomes president.

The IOM says that 23,664 migrants arrived in Europe by sea in the first two weeks of 2016 but, 362 of them are currently in Greece.

Last year, just over 1 million arrived. The asylum-seekers registered in Germany included large numbers of people who passed through the Balkans.

TRTWorld and agencies