Metro Morning

Toronto lawyer outlines security risks of Syrian refugees to U.S. lawmakers

This week a U.S. Senate committee took a closer look at Canada's plan to fast-track Syrian refugees, and whether it comes at a cost to American security.

Syrians a 'higher-risk demographic,' Canadian immigration lawyer testifies

Guidy Mamann testifying about Canada's policy towards Syrian refugees this week in Washington, D.C. (Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs)

This week a U.S. Senate committee took a closer look at Canada's plan to fast-track Syrian refugees, and whether it comes at a cost to American security.

"We have a pretty unsecure border with Canada, it's just never really represented much of a threat," said Republican Senator Ron Johnson, speaking earlier this week at a Senate committee in Washington.

"Islamic terror represents a threat. This is real. It is growing. This is a legitimate concern. We are all compassionate. We want to solve these problems but we want to recognize our responsibility to do everything we can to keep this nation safe and secure."

That hearing looked at Canada's plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees and the security implications it raises for the United States. It comes in the wake of Donald Trump's call for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S., and a move by American governors to ban Syrian refugees from entering their states.

Three Canadians spoke at Wednesday's senate hearing, including Guidy Mamann, a Toronto immigration lawyer who has raised some concerns about the refugee plan.

"I'm pretty concerned," he said. "I think the pace at which we're going might be a bit too much, which causes unique challenges for us."

This week a U.S. Senate committee took a closer look at Canada's resettlement of Syrian refugees, and it there's a cost to American security. Guest host Helen Mann spoke with immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann.

Mamann is a senior partner at Mamann, Sandaluk & Kingwell, LLC. He said there are about 14 million refugees worldwide from previous conflicts, which have been going on for years.

He questioned why Sudanese, Rwandan, Congolese and other people escaping war in their countries did not receive the same treatment from Canada as Syrians.

"There are people in our office waiting for years," Mamann said Friday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. "Why is somebody being allowed to jump ahead of the line?"

He told the hearing that the urgency at which the Canadian government is processing refugees is not warranted.

"This is not a rescue mission. This is a resettlement mission," he said. "The people we are helping have already
escaped the conflict zone and have already reached safety in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. We are only
relocating them and offering them permanent resettlement. We are making no attempt, whatsoever, to
rescue people who are actually in Syria and who are in imminent danger."

Security risk?

Mamann argued to the U.S. lawmakers that there are risks Canada was taking with accepting so many refugees so fast. One of his arguments is that it's very difficult to vet the Syrian refugees for potential security risks.

"We have no Canadian personnel in Syrian who can confirm these things," he said.  "The information we have access to is old and unreliable."

He said many of the refugees in the world share Canadian values, and don't have opposition to role of women or gay, lesbian or transsexual people in society. He suggested refugees from the Middle East have that opposition.

He also agreed there is a threat of terrorism with Syrian refugees.

"When compared to other large groups of refugees, one could easily argue that this group represents a relatively higher-risk demographic. Syria is widely considered to be a major hotbed of international terror," he said.

He emphasized that he is not saying Canada will see 25,000 terrorists. But the risk of terror is there.

"Large parts of [Syria] are controlled by ISIS which, sadly, enjoys some considerable local support," he went on. "Virtually the entire country supports one of the three warring factions. All three groups have been associated with assorted atrocities and violations of human rights."

Canada's target is to accept 50,000 refugees from the millions displaced by the Syrian conflict.