The migrant debacle

By Eugène E.

In December of 2015, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has never come across a photo op he didn’t like, descended upon Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to greet the first group of Syrian migrants – out of a total of some 25,000 – that his government had decided to admit into Canada. The embodiment of Canada’s ultraliberals – people who effortlessly combine deep pockets with hippie reflexes – the PM was all smiles. “Welcome home”, he was heard to say to one family.

Last week police in the Canadian province of British Columbia finally made an arrest in connection with the murder of 13-year-old Marrisa Shen in the summer of 2017. The suspect is a Syrian refugee who appears to have entered the country earlier that year. Bearing in mind that those who are charged with crimes are innocent until proven guilty, prudence is in order. However, assuming that the authorities have got their man, what inferences can we make? Do we now have carte blanche to make blanket statements about Syrian refugees, much less about the Syrian community in Canada? Absolutely not. We can, however, confidently say that the government, inspired by misguided ultraliberal sentiment, has let in scores of people who should have never been allowed to set foot in Canada; and in the case of the Syrian migrants, neither ignorance nor naivety is a valid excuse.

No government can be expected to vouch for the impeccable behavior of every asylum seeker and refugee that it takes in. But in an age when Islamic terrorism happens to be one of the main stories, one need not be an astute analyst to appreciate that welcoming tens of thousands of migrants (there are an estimated 50,000 in Canada now) from a region that is a cauldron of terrorism and violence is a decidedly ill-advised idea. However many legitimate refugees there might have been among those Syrian migrants who were accepted, it seems to me that national security should supersede the importance of being “nice”. But there was virtually no opposition to Trudeau’s juvenile can-do effervescence, and such rumbles of dissent as might have been heard and heeded in a more cool-headed environment were largely muted. An unwillingness to take in Syrian migrants was perceived as either uncharitable or, worse, xenophobic; and no Canadian wants to be thought of as uncharitable or xenophobic. Especially xenophobic.

I remember expressing my doubts sometime in early 2017 to one gentleman who worked for CBC, the country’s national public broadcaster. The gentleman assured me that the vetting process had been rigorous – the federal government had taken no chances. This was shortly after Donald Trump had settled down in the White House and decided to turn away migrants from certain countries. Juxtaposed against Trump’s avowedly hostile attitude towards migrants from Muslim nations, which was seen as hideously hidebound, bigoted and narrow-minded by all right-thinking, tolerant ultraliberals, Trudeau appeared as the golden boy of ultraliberalism, a man who symbolized the right way of thinking – the right way of thinking as it has been conceived and formulated by the ultraliberal movement. Providing a sharp contrast to the events south of the border, Trudeau’s integrationist approach was cheered to the echo.

In a spirit reminiscent of the ethos of the Soviet Union’s ideological apparatus, the CEO of a Toronto-based IT company I was involved with at the time encouraged his employees to append their signatures to a letter, which was in the process of being circulated in the industry. Motivated by opposition to Trump’s immigration policies, the letter was an appeal for diversity and pluralism; it was signed by captains of the industry as well as by the rank and file. Looking at all the signatures on the list, I wondered whether the people who had added their names to the letter with such alacrity would also be willing to take responsibility if a beneficiary of their idealism committed a terrorist atrocity.

In 2015 German Chancelor Angela Merkel decided to open doors to more than a million migrants from Syria and beyond. Unlike the uninspiring Trudeau, Merkel at least managed to come up with a slogan of sorts (“Wir schaffen das” – we can do it). No amount of wir schaffen das is likely to attenuate the dramatic and potentially irreversible impact of a decision that will have far-reaching consequences for Germany’s security and demography. We have already been treated to quite a preview: the New Year’s Eve sex assaults in Cologne in 2015, the Berlin truck attack in 2016 – the list is a damning one. In recent weeks, demonstrations broke out in the German city of Chemnitz after a German man had been reportedly murdered by two refugees, one Syrian and the other Iraqi. Photos showed thuggish-looking far-right nationalists marching – never an attractive sight. But, as one article reported on a town-hall meeting held in Chemnitz to address the incident, there was another face to the choir of protests: that of nurses, teachers, doctors, and lawyers concerned about the effect that Merkel’s wir-schaffen-das doctrine was having on the safety, security, and social cohesion of their community. Such voices of legitimate protest have been forced to be silent for far too long: when normal channels of communication are blocked, the floor is turned over to extremists. When you see a bunch of skinheads whose insalubrious chants you must endure, the responsibility, to a considerable degree, lies with those who have foisted on society a level of tolerance that simply cannot be absorbed by society, and who subsequently, having chased all the moderates away, triggered a violent reaction from the fringes.

The crime with which the Syrian refugee has been charged in the Marrisa Shen case is not a terrorist act. His motives are thus far unclear but, more likely than not, the crime was born of a very disturbed mind. But what if one of the Syrian refugees accepted through Trudeau’s refugee program ends up committing an act of terror on Canadian soil? I fear there’s a fairly high risk of such an occurrence in Canada, a higher one still in Germany. Late last year, a report authored by Canada’s auditor general concluded that the federal government had been mostly unable to track the outcome, and measure the impact, of its refugee program. Translated into layman’s terms, the government was not entirely sure where the Syrian refugees were and what, exactly, they were up to. Considering the security dimension involved, this kind of negligence borders on the criminal.

Faithful readers of this blog know that I am very careful when it comes to predictions. I am only slightly less careful when it comes to prescriptions – God knows that are enough people dispensing those. However, I’d like to suggest two measures that should make it easier for societies to shoulder the burden of all resettlement initiatives to which said societies, usually with minimal consultation, are asked to submit. Namely, I propose that:

  1. Those who are enthusiastic about accepting scores of Syrian migrants open their own homes to at least one such migrant (ideally, the host should not be related to the country from where the migrant is coming, and the migrant to be hosted should be a young male). If you want to have Syrian migrants enter en masse, please be prepared to have a Syrian male in his twenties living under your roof. 
  2. Those policymakers who pursue such ultraliberal policies in the sphere of immigration be criminally liable for any terrorist activities undertaken by those who benefit from their policies. If you admit 50,000 Syrian migrants into the country, despite many warnings and prior experience, and one of them blows something up, you will be considered to have aided and abetted the perpetrator.

In a perfect world, the above proposals would also be applied retroactively, but ours is a very imperfect one. Even without retroactive effect, however, I am sure that the number of advocates of open-border policies would drop significantly if the above recommendations were to be implemented. Accountability is a very efficient tool. Alas, it is also not a strong suit of the average ultraliberal. The bien-pensants wax poetic about values and then have everyone else deal with the fallout. In the ultraliberal world, accountability is subject to a very austere rationing scheme: you don’t have to worry about getting too much of it.

Until the day when our world becomes a little less imperfect and a bit more skeptical about vacuous ultraliberal ideas, I’m afraid we’ll see more violence – violence that would be perfectly preventable if only society had better leaders.