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The Paris Attacks Could Make Things Even Worse for Syrian Refugees

Speculation and rumors surrounding the nationalities of the attackers has already stirred up anti-immigrant and Islamophobic sentiment.

by Tess Owen
Nov 14 2015, 9:30pm

Foto di Philippe Wojazer/Reuters

Barely 24 hours after the coordinated terror attacks that rocked Paris on Friday night, the blame game already began, with the European Union's open border policy that has allowed free movement for refugees seeking asylum coming under fire.

Over the last year, more than 700,000 requests for asylum have been submitted to European countries by refugees fleeing horrific violence and persecution in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries. Details about the identities of the seven Paris attackers are just beginning to emerge, but early indications suggest at least one of them may have come from Syria.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said on Saturday that a Syrian passport was found near the body of a suicide bomber at the Stade de France, north of Paris. Greece's Ministry of Citizen Protection said the person who owned the passport entered the European Union on October 3 through the Greek island of Leros, the Associated Press reported. Other unconfirmed reports said two men linked to the attacks registered as migrants in Greece.

Related: The Terror Attacks in Paris: A Timeline of Events

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, and French President Francois Hollande vowed a "merciless" response against the militant group. "It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army," Hollande said. "It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside."

Others involved in the plot were reportedly Europeans. One of the gunmen killed during the siege of the Bataclan concert hall was reportedly a 30-year-old Frenchman from Courcouronnes, a suburb about 20 miles south of Paris. Police have also made arrests in a Brussels neighborhood where three of the attackers are believed to have lived. Meanwhile, German officials have said they have "reason to believe" that a man arrested in Bavaria earlier in November with a car full of explosives was also linked to the attacks.

But the speculation and rumors surrounding the nationalities of the attackers has already stirred up anti-immigrant and Islamophobic sentiment. In a speech on Saturday, Marine le Pen, the leader of France's right-wing National Front party, called for tighter border control and crackdown on "radical mosques."

"It's indispensable that France regain control of its borders permanently," Le Pen said at a press conference on Saturday.

In a statement made to a right-wing news outlet, Konrad Szymanski, Poland's incoming European affairs minister, said that his government could no longer accept the European Union's refugee quota. "In the face of the tragic acts in Paris," Szymanski said. "we do not see the political possibilities to implement [this]."

Related: Live Updates From the Aftermath of the Paris Attacks

France has reinstated border controls and declared a state of national emergency.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a fervent advocate for the EU's open border policy, which has been criticized by more conservative factions in Germany. Making the case for open borders, Merkel has appealed to Europeans' humanity, saying that accepting refugees was "the right thing to do."

In a two-day summit that took place just days before Friday's attack, EU officials gathered in Malta to discuss ways to stem the flow of refugees, resolving to offer Turkey 3 billion euros to accommodate refugees flowing over its Syrian border and prevent them from making their way to Europe through the Balkans. During the summit, Merkel expressed reluctance to reinstate border controls in Germany. The attacks on Paris have now triggered fresh criticisms of her refugee policies.

Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soder was quick to link the Paris attacks with the surge of refugees, urging tighter border control. "It cannot be that we don't know who is coming to Germany," Soder told Die Welt am Sonntag. "This situation must be brought to an end by any means."

Merkel issued a statement saying that her thoughts were with the victims of the "apparent terrorist attack."

Related: 'I Knew to Get Up and Run': The Haunting Remnants of the Attacks in Paris

On the other side of the pond, a spokesperson for the Canadian prime minister's office reportedly said the Paris attacks will not change the country's plans to admit 25,000 Syrian refugees. In September, President Barack Obama said the US would accept as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees if the government can complete screening and clearance processes in time. Obama's plan is also now under attack, decried by Texas Senator Ted Cruz as "lunacy."

Cruz and fellow GOP presidential candidates Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum all released statements urging the United States to close their borders to all refugees fleeing from Syria.

"There are those out there who have a thirst for innocent blood," Carson said at a press conference after the attacks. "If we're going to be bringing 200,000 people over here from that region — if I were one of the leaders of the global jihadist movement and I didn't infiltrate that group of people with my people, that would be almost malpractice."

Donald Trump, the GOP frontrunner, held a campaign rally in Beaumont, Texas, where he made immigration, Syria, and the Paris attacks central to his speech.

South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan also added his two cents.

Meanwhile, Muslims around the world have condemned the attacks, and many people are calling for moderation and empathy in the months to come.

Related: Why the Islamic State Attacked Paris — And What Happens Next

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen

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