In the wake of last week’s bloodshed in Paris—purportedly carried out by members of the Syria-and-Iraq-based terror group ISIL—more than half of US state governors declared they did not want to shelter Syrian refugees anymore. Polls find that most US citizens take the same stance. And in Europe, leaders in multiple countries have been quick to link terrorism to an influx of refugees from the Middle East.
But in France, where the attacks actually occurred, French president Francois Hollande has made a heartfelt promise to accept 30,000 refugees from war-torn Syria into France in the next two years. That’s even more than the 24,000 he promised to take in, in September. Upon making the announcement to a gathering of the country’s mayors yesterday (Nov. 18), Hollande received a standing ovation.
“Our country has the duty to respect this commitment,” he said, noting that the refugees will undergo tight security checks. “France should remain as it is. Our duty is to carry on our lives.”
Hollande said that while the events of the last few days may “have sown doubts” into people’s minds, France still has a “humanitarian duty” to help those fleeing Syria’s civil war. Since the attacks, France’s far-right political party has expressed deep opposition to both immigrants and Islamic organizations. In France at large, a dangerous culture war, brewing for decades, now seems to be bubbling to the surface more vigorously than ever.
But anti-immigrant sentiments are still largely unfounded. Though the architects of the violent Paris attacks have been linked to the Islamic State, there is scant evidence that Syrian refugees played any role at all.
On the same day that Hollande dedicated France to taking in more refugees, US president Barack Obama hotly criticized leaders in his country who would block refugees from finding asylum in the US, accusing the politicians of being “scared of widows and orphans.” The US State Department also remained firm on its promise to absorb 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year.