TERRORISM: WHAT IMMIGRATION GOT TO DO WITH IT?

The atrocities committed in Paris by merchants of death are sad and unexplainable by any person in any language… to say it is sad would be an understatement. No words can really explain the intensity of the evil unleashed on innocent civilians going about their business in that beautiful city. My heart bleeds every time I see those clips on TV of people on the streets bleeding, hurting and others hanging on window sills trying to save their lives.

I saw the breaking news of the attack first on Sky news from my room at the Radisson Blu Hotel Edwardian near Heathrow Airport where I was spending the night before catching a flight to Nairobi. I had just finished attending the Fragomen EMEA Immigration Conference in Edinburgh Scotland where issues of the Syrian Refugees were discussed . I must say these news really scared me and I became paranoid and started wondering what next. That the perpetrators of this evil were migrants in France really made me think about Immigration and terrorism.

Kenya has had fair share of similar and even worse attacks than what happened in Paris. The Garissa University attack is one such attack…in fact the attack at the Battaclan Theatre was so similar to the Garissa and West gate attacks in the manner and motive. These perverts were out to unleash death in the most terrifying way possible. Unfortunately they did…and the global media as usual helped them to advance this course. Well, there has been a debate as to whether media should cover terror attacks real time and as wide scale as we have seen. On one side, the media in their role of informing the public need to do this…on the other hand, it is a known fact that when terrorists attack, they intend to maximize on the media coverage as much as possible. Some people have argued that media and terrorism are strange bedfellows…this debate will never end any time soon.

According to the global Terrorism Index 2014, which is … “a comprehensive study that accounts for the direct and indirect impact of terrorism in 162 countries in terms of lives lost, injuries, property damage and the psychological after-effects of terrorism in 99.6 percent of the world population…” (p.12). In total there have been over 48,000 terrorist incidents over the last 14 years claiming over 107,000 lives. Terrorism has increased dramatically with even conservative estimates suggesting a fivefold surge since the year 2000. This report further says that “Terrorism is a global phenomenon and in 2013 attacks were carried out in 87 countries with 60 of these experiencing deaths from terrorism” (p.12). Out of the 162 countries covered in this report, Africa had two countries in the top ten, eight countries in top twenty and twenty countries in top fifty. Kenya is ranked number twelve with a score of 6.58 with the West gate terror attack in the list of 20 worst terror attacks of the year 2013 globally at number eight with 72 fatalities and 201 injuries (GTI 2014, p.10)

According to Cinoglu (2013), “The relationship between migration and security concepts has regained its importance after the events of post September 11. The fact that the perpetrators of the attacks were foreigners has left question marks in the minds as to the effectiveness of the border security and migration control systems” (p.1) The role of Immigration agencies in combating terrorism globally has come in focus since then. Whenever acts of terrorism occur in any given country, citizens and other security agencies would look into the role that immigration and border security agencies may have in it. Cinoglu (2013) further posits that due to its trans-border and trans-national characteristics, international terrorism has been viewed as an issue closely linked to international migration.

This probably explains why Kenya Immigration was put into sharp focus and scrutiny by various agencies, including the Kenyan parliament. According to the report of the joint committees of Kenya National assembly that looked into this issue…“There is nationwide systemic failure on the part of the Immigration Services Department… attributed to corruption at the border control points and registration centers, mainly in Nairobi, Coast and North Eastern areas”( KNA 2014)

I read this report ( I have critiqued it elsewhere) and was not convinced at all on these findings because the report itself looked to me a lot more like a concoction of some sort…no wonder the National Assembly rejected this report on the floor of the house. However, we can not entirely ignore the centrality of global immigration practice in combating terrorism.

As Europe grapples with the issue of Syrian refugees, the revelation that some of the Paris attackers may have entered Europe as refugees complicates the situation more. I must admit that as a Kenyan I was really NOT surprised because that is the same narrative we have here. Refugee camps have been the recruiting grounds for Al Shabab…the Garissa University attack was blamed on terrorists masquerading as refugees as well. When I served in the United Nations In Liberia, the Liberian government kept raising same claims about Ivorian refugees in Liberia as the people behind some attacks in that country.

The truth of the matter is that refugees can be a real threat to global security… this is not to mean that we close our borders to genuine refugees but screening of these people needs to be scaled up. I know the issue of refugee rights and human rights have been raised, but in my view there are enough examples across the globe of instances where refugees or to put it in a better way, terrorists disguised as refugees have wrecked havoc to the communities hosting them like in Kenya, Liberia and now France.

I saw Governor Jeb Bush on CNN saying that the US has one of the most thorough screening mechanism for refugees that takes almost a year for an asylum seeker to be accepted as a refugee in the US. In my view, As long as during the process these people are accorded humane abode and basic human needs, I would agree with this model of processing refugees.

The world has become global and so has crime. It is now easier for criminals to communicate and operate. Unfortunately the same drivers of modern society are the same used by the evil doers to harm the society.

The topic on terrorism is very sensitive and as many people as there are in the world today will have different views on this topic but we must keep the discourse live and see how it goes.

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