Syrian refugees shouldn't be feared, says immigration expert

The Paris attacks have some questioning the federal government's push to settle more Syrian refugees in Canada, for fear terrorists will sneak into the country. But a Calgary immigration expert says the anxiety is misdirected, perhaps dangerously so.

Going through extensive process least likely scenario for terrorists infiltrating Canada

Fariborz Birjandian, CEO of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, says terrorists exploiting the refugee process is the least likely scenario. (CBC)

The Paris attacks have some questioning the federal government's push to settle more Syrian refugees in Canada, for fear terrorists will sneak into the country. But a Calgary immigration expert says the anxiety is misdirected, perhaps dangerously so.

Calgary resident Mitchell McQuade says since the Paris attacks, some of his friends aren't so sure we should be bringing in refugees.

"They're a bit scared, where they might actually bring in terrorists or terrorism with the refugees," he said.

But Calgary Catholic Immigration Society CEO Fariborz Birjandian says the screening process to become a refugee in Canada is rigorous. 

"When a group like ISIS wants to infiltrate in a country, they use every venue possible to them," he said, but the least likely scenario is ISIS going through the refugee process.

"With our experience, once you become a refugee, especially with the way we in Canada do that, you really get scrutinized quite a bit," he said. "You go through a process. People know who you are before you come to Canada."

Misinformation

He says focusing anxiety on one group is actually a dangerous thing, as terrorists could come into the country in a number of ways, including as tourists or students. 

Birjandian says one of the biggest challenges is countering all the misinformation and providing people with the means to form sound opinions, no matter what those opinions may be. 

"Ignoring the fears of people I don't think is the correct way of doing it. We have to recognize that and provide them with the right information," he said.

"I can tell that over the past two months, half of my time has been actually dealing with the noise. A lot of misinformation is out there, a lot of things that people don't really understand, it's really technical."

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