Do immigrants and asylum seekers pose a terrorist threat?

The news coming out of Stockholm is all too familiar these days.  A man stole a beer truck and drove it down a popular pedestrian mall in the centre of town, mowing down people before crashing into a storefront.  The use of a vehicle to cause terror has become a trend of late and attacks of this nature are next to impossible to stop, as I wrote in an earlier blog.

Or are they?

It turns out that the suspect in the Swedish incident was an Uzbek asylum seeker who was known to security services and who was slated to be deported: it is unclear at this juncture why he had not yet been removed from Sweden.  This recalls a very similar occurrence last December when we learned that the Berlin Christmas market terrorist was also an immigrant with extremist views and whom authorities had sought to send back to his native Tunisia.  Bureaucratic red tape had delayed that process and as a consequence 12 Germans were killed (and 56 wounded) while out shopping for gifts.

What this all means is quite clear, at least to me.  Our protective agencies are very good at identifying those who pose a threat to our societies.  Through their investigations they gather intelligence and evidence on terrorists and criminals and share that information with their partners.  They are doing the very task we ask of them.

So why is it that when we know about non-citizens who intend to carry out acts of violence on our soil, or radicalise others, we cannot boot them out?  Why does the process take so long?  Why are there so many appeals and why do so many lawyers make ridiculous statements about how their clients are innocent bystanders?  Why can’t we as nation states determine who can and who cannot live among us?  Why should we allow malefactors to reside here and take advantage of our freedoms?

That my friends is the problem.  We have more than enough information and processes in place to deport terrorists and yet there is a huge gap between building a case and executing it.  And yes, in Canada that includes the infamous national security certificate proceedings, where our intelligence agencies have shown that a handful of people pose a threat to us but we have been unable to remove them (quite the contrary: they are free and are probably suing us).  This is an insane way to run a country and ignore real menaces to our country.  Terrorists must be laughing at us.

But while it is crystal clear that there are a handful of problem immigrants and asylum seekers we must not lose sight of the fact that the vast,vast, vast majority pose no threat and in fact contribute to who we are as a nation.  We need immigrants to help all of us keep building this amazing social experiment that is Canada and we must push back when there are those that say that we must close our doors to those who want to live here.  No, we must be vigilant and allow CSIS and the RCMP (and CBSA) to do their jobs, but we must also be a welcoming society.  Every time an asylum seeker pending deportation commits a crime the anti-immigrant mob gets one more example to make their (ill-founded) case.

In the end we cannot allow a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, but we absolutely must toss those few bad apples out.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

Leave a Reply