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Refugees arriving in zodiac boat

Terrorists rarely exploit refugee networks to conduct attacks.

Terrorism and Mass Migration

January 2016, Number 07.01

“In October 2014, RT news reported that “U.S. intelligence sources” had “unencrypted locked communications of the caliphate’s leadership,” revealing that “Islamic State militants [were] planning to insert operatives into Western Europe disguised as refugees.” Fears of this alleged Islamic State (IS) Trojan horse strategy intensified in January 2015 after a self-confessed smuggler for the group, operating in Turkey, claimed to have sent 4,000 IS fighters to Europe by loading them onto cargo ships filled with refugees. The intent, he asserted, was to stage attacks in retaliation for coalition airstrikes. The following month, an article published online by another professed IS member, apparently based in Libya, advocated infiltrating Europe using immigrant boats from North Africa.

As the number of refugees has continued to rise, so, too, have security concerns. By October 2015, the number of Syrian refugees was estimated at about 4 million, and although most of them are in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon or Turkey, many thousands are now making their way to Europe. Three-quarters of a million migrants and refugees (about 40 percent from Syria) had already arrived, placing a tremendous strain on the nations concerned and further stoking fears of terrorism. Meanwhile, although the United States has so far pledged to take in just 10,000 Syrian refugees, a September 2015 U.S. Homeland Security Committee report expressed concern that those admitted to Europe will eventually gain passports that will enable easy trans-Atlantic travel, thus potentially allowing terrorist “sleeper cells” to enter the country...”

Excerpt from Sam Mullins, “Terrorism and Mass Migration,” per Concordiam: Journal of European Security Defense Issues 7, No. 1, 2016: 22-29.

Dr. Sam Mullins is a counterterrorism professor at the Marshall Center. He serves as an honorary principal fellow at the University of Wollongong, Australia, and is on the editorial boards of the journals Behavioral Sciences of Terrorism and Political Aggression and Perspectives on Terrorism. He is the author of the book Home-Grown Jihad: Understanding Islamist Terrorism in the US and UK.

This article reflects the views of the author and are not necessarily the official policy of the United States, Germany, or any other governments.