Those who reject Syrian refugees because of their religion are the "best allies" of DAESH and other terror organisations, the United Nations refugee chief said on Monday.
"Those that reject Syrian refugees, and especially if they are Muslim, are the best allies of the propaganda and the recruitment of extremist groups," Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council in response to US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s remarks as well as those of other US state governors and European leaders.
Trump had been largely condemned after he proposed an entry ban on foreign Muslims, mainly Syrians, seeking refuge in the United States.
Over 4.3 million Syrians have escaped a nearly five-year-old civil war, which makes the country the world’s single-largest source of refugees and displaced people.
"We must not forget that, despite the rhetoric we are hearing these days, refugees are the first victims of such terror, not its source," Guterres said.
"They cannot be blamed for a threat which they're risking their lives to escape."
Apart from the chaos in Syria, DAESH has seized swathes of territory and proclaimed a caliphate in the region. The group had claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks in November.
After it had turned out one of the suicide bombers in Paris had been carrying a Syrian passport, fears were raised that terrorists could enter these countries by blending in with the asylum-seekers fleeing their land.
But Guterres says that possibility exists everywhere.
"Yes, of course there is a possibility that terrorists could try to infiltrate refugee movements. But this possibility exists for all communities - and homegrown radicalization is by far the biggest threat, as all recent incidents have shown," he said.
On Saturday, during a televised debate among leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton said Trump's comments were becoming DAESH's "best recruiter."