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Take migrants in, UN says

  • In World
  • 00:00, 17 Nov
  • By Sudhir Vyas

New York: The United Nations on Tuesday urged states not to "backtrack" on pledges made to host migrants and refugees, including from Syria, in the wake of the attacks in Paris. Multiple UN agencies issued a warning to European leaders who might use the tragedy to advance anti-migrant policies, stressing that many of those seeking refuge in Europe have also been the victims of extremists.

Of the estimated 1.1 million migrants who have landed in Europe via the Mediterranean since 2013, less than six "have raised questions in terms of possible links to extremism," said International Organization for Migration spokesman Joel Millman.

Millman noted that the IOM, which received that information from individual governments, has no evidence that any of those people were ever involved in acts of violence.

In the United States, applications are handled by one of nine State Department-managed resettlement support centers around the world, a process that includes vetting and interviews by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and takes an average of 18-24 months. There are occasions when a process can begin without UNHCR referral, but this usually applies in cases of close relatives of refugees already in the U.S.

Of 2,184 Syrian refugees admitted into the U.S. since the Syrian civil war erupted in 2011, only 53 (2.4 percent) have been Christians while 2098 (or 96 percent) have been Muslims, according to State Department updated statistics.

The remaining 33 include 1 Yazidi, 8 Jehovah Witnesses, 2 Baha’i, 6 Zoroastrians, 6 of "other religion," 7 of "no religion," and 3 atheists.

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, some Republican presidential candidates and governors are calling on the administration to reconsider a plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the current fiscal year.

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill called for a “pause” in admitting Syrian refugees to the United States, citing national security risks in the wake of the Paris attacks. Fears of a domestic terrorist infiltration have suffused the congressional reaction to Friday’s attacks, and there were indications those fears could bleed into coming negotiations over funding the federal government.

But Republicans said threats from Islamic State radicals demand at least a temporary halt to the program until the vetting process can be assured.  “Our nation has always been welcoming, but we cannot let terrorists take advantage of our compassion,” House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said. “This is a moment where it’s better to be safe than to be sorry.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also said that he backs a “pause or a moratorium” on allowing Syrian refugees into the county.

French sources have said that a passport found near the body of one of the Stade de France suicide bombers may have belonged to a Syrian -- possibly an ex-government soldier -- who registered on the Greek island of Leros on October 3.

Using that information as a pretext to curb migration by vulnerable people into Europe could prove disastrous, UN representatives said.

Meanwhile the first charter flight carrying dozens of Syrian refugees landed at Glasgow Airport on Tuesday as part of British government plans to bring in 20,000 asylum-seekers over the next five years. The plane from Beirut, carrying around 100 people according to British media, is the first of several flights in the coming weeks expected to transport 1,000 of the new arrivals by Christmas.

"This is a proud day for Scotland," the Scottish government's minister for Europe and international development Humza Yousaf said in a statement. "I would like to extend the warmest of welcomes on behalf of the people of Scotland to the Syrian refugees who have arrived in Glasgow today, and wish them all the best as they are supported to start their new lives here," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron has resisted calls for Britain to take in more refugees and has said it will only take in people from UN refugee camps, warning that accepting arrivals in Europe would encourage more people to make dangerous journeys.