A group of 200 refugees is due to arrive in Argentina over the next two weeks, reported La Nación today, amounting to the first indication that the government is making good on its promise to increase the total number of Syrian refugees in the country by 3,000.
Macri committed to increasing the number of refugees arriving into the country just 10 days ago during his first speech in front of the United Nations, as part of a bid to highlight Argentina’s “re-insertion” into the world.
For the plan to be truly politically successful, the government’s new challenge will be to reassure Argentines that its humanitarian gesture need not come at the expense of national security. A significant proportion of those living in Buenos Aires have admitted to being afraid the decision to welcome refugees will result in a terrorist attack in the city. Almost one third think it is “probable” or “very probable” according to a survey carried out by a local consultancy.
There should be more than enough ammunition to reassure anxious Argentines — among other factors, Argentina’s relatively non-interventionist foreign policy in the Middle East makes it far less of a target.
As to the logistics of the refugee program, Argentina’s Federal Intelligence Agency, National Commission for Refugees and Minister of Work Security have all been in Aleppo over the past 20 days, vetting the potential arrivals. A deeper selection process is now underway with the help of intelligence agencies from Canada, the Unites States and Europe, who will provide a “final analysis” on the 200 refugees arriving.
Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Foradori yesterday whole-heartedly rejected the idea that refugees could pose a terrorist threat to the country, saying “if a Syrian comes to commit an attack, he will not come through this program.” He instead drew attention to the more dubious background of those who come by other means through Argentina’s “porous” borders.
One Casa Rosada source told La Nación that “[banishing] the idea that there are terrorist infiltrators among the Syrian families who arrive in the country” was one of the government’s principal objectives.
Despite these concerns, 56 percent of respondents from the same survey of 500 people in Buenos Aires did express approval for the refugee acceptance plan. According to the president of the Argentine-Arab Confederation, Buenos Aires province is one of the best prepared to welcome refugees.