Refugees are not a terrorism risk

In the wake of the Brighton siege, the right-wing media is again scaremongering about refugees and terrorism. The Australian’s Chris Kenny declared that the country had experience four fatal terrorist incidents involving, “four dead terrorists, and all four of them here under our refugee program.”

But it simply isn’t true that terrorists are arriving as refugees or somehow getting through government screening. Not a single refugee who arrived by boat has been involved in terrorism. Yet it is refugee boat arrivals that are the main target of the fearmongering about refugees. Refugees also arrive by plane or as part of the official government selection process from camps overseas.

Three of the four incidents Kenny referred to involved people either born here or who arrived as very young children. Yacub Khayre, who staged the siege in Brighton on 5 June, arrived in Australia aged seven. It was his experience of growing here that turned him into a petty criminal, addicted to drugs, who spent more time inside prison since age 16 than outside it.

Similarly Numan Haider, shot after stabbing a police officer in 2014, arrived here when he was around eight. The family of Parramatta shooter Farhad Jabar arrived in Australia around the same date he was born.

The only one who arrived here as an adult among the four was Man Haron Monis. He arrived on a business visa, but stayed as a refugee. Monis lived here for 18 years before he staged the Martin Place siege. Far from the usual picture of a hardened extremist, a psychologist told the inquest into the event that he was “a disturbed individual with delusional thoughts and narcissistic tendencies”. At one point he boasted of connections to Iranian intelligence. Among other bizarre acts, he ran a “spiritual healing” business advertising numerology, astrology and magic spells.

None of these four refugees had the slightest connection to terrorist extremism when they arrived in the country. Their lengthy periods of life in Australia before becoming involved in terrorism mirror the experience in Europe. All but two out of the 18 people involved in the November 2015 Paris attacks, for example, were either born in or grew up in France and Belgium. As even ASIO chief Duncan Lewis has said, statistically, refugees are not more likely to be involved in terrorism.

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