US' refugee intake 'poses terror risk'

WASHINGTON • The United States' plans to take in some 10,000 Syrian refugees increases the danger of Islamist militants entering the country as well, said a top US lawmaker, who expressed strong reservations about the programme.

Mr Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, warned that fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could embed with refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, creating a terrorism pipeline.

"From a national security standpoint, I take ISIS at its word when they said, in their own words, 'We'll use and exploit the refugee crisis to infiltrate the West'. That concerns me," Mr McCaul told ABC television's This Week programme.

The White House said last Thursday that it hopes to scale up the number of refugees the US welcomes from war-torn Syria in the next fiscal year.

A number of US officials have said it is possible that members of the ISIS extremist group could sneak into the country among those refugees.

But retired General John Allen, speaking on the same news programme on Sunday, said he is confident in the refugee-vetting procedures in place.

"We should be conscious of the possibility that (ISIS) may attempt to embed agents within that population," he said.

"But I also have to tell you, I have tremendous confidence in the work that has been and is being done by US security agencies," he added.

Just over 1,800 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the US in more than four years since the civil war in their country began. More than four million people have fled the fighting.

The United Nations has referred some 18,000 of those refugees to the US for resettling, and each case takes nearly two years to process.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'US' refugee intake 'poses terror risk''. Print Edition | Subscribe