Only hours after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, several politicians in France and elsewhere in Europe, as well as numerous commentators, placed blame on the European Union and its open-border Schengen zone, with some even calling for a breakup of the union or their own country’s withdrawal from it. However, to contain and mitigate terrorism most effectively, France and other European countries need more bilateral and multilateral cooperation, not less, from intelligence sharing to cracking down on arms smuggling.
Shortly after the Paris attacks, the head of France’s right-wing National Front party, Marine Le Pen, expressed her “concern” about “the gigantic waves of migrants who arrive and who will continue to arrive.” She warned of a “terrorist infiltration” with the “dissemination of migrants in the towns and cities of France.” Konrad Szymanski, the prospective Polish minister for European affairs, said that Poland must regain “full control” of its borders and migration policy. In the U.K., Nigel Farage, the leader of the nationalist UK Independent Party, declared, referring to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, that the “warnings were pretty clear.” The group said it would “use the migrant tide to flood the EU with half a million jihadists,” he added, before noting that the Schengen area has meant the “free movement of Kalashnikov rifles . . . terrorists . . . and . . . jihadists.”
These simplistic arguments are increasingly popular, yet deeply flawed. There is no evidence to suggest that refugees pose a higher security threat than non-refugees. According to the Migration Policy Institute, out of the 784,000 refugees resettled in the U.S. since 9/11, only three have been arrested for plotting terrorist attacks. All the suspects whose identities are known in the Paris attacks were French and Belgian citizens, not refugees. Since 1971, over 90 percent of all terrorist attacks worldwide have been domestic—that is, perpetrated by “nationals from one country, attacking targets of the same nationality in the same country,” according to the Global Terrorism Database.