THE BLOG

Isis Represent a New Fascism, a New Totalitarianism - We Won't Fight It by Shunning Those Who Flee It

20/11/2015 11:14 GMT | Updated 20/11/2016 10:12 GMT

The tricoleurs shining from international landmarks this week have been a powerful display of solidarity with the victims of Isis brutality. In Paris, Beirut and the skies over the Sinai desert, Isis attacked restaurants, bars, concerts, football matches, street markets, holidays - our enjoyment, our freedom, our humanity. And across the globe, people stood together in determination not to let terrorists win.

But support for refugees fleeing from the same Isis barbarism has been knocked. The US Congress yesterday voted for new restrictions to keep out Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Poland has threatened to block the EU relocation scheme. In Britain, the Government has rightly given assurances that the Syrian refugees arriving in Glasgow this week have been through double security checks, yet critics on social media still called for them to be sent home.

Global action is needed in the face of Isis barbarism. When Europe's interior ministers meet in Brussels today they need to discuss new security measures - including action on intelligence, information sharing, resources for police and security services, border and firearms controls, and preventing radicalisation.

We also need to keep providing sanctuary for refugees fleeing Isis brutality too. President Obama is right to challenge the proposed new Congressional law and point out there are already strong security checks on refugees in the US. But France is also right to warn that more action is needed within Europe to stop Isis exploiting the refugee crisis. Reform of European border controls as part of a stronger, managed response to the refugee crisis would improve both humanitarian support and security. That should be on European ministers' agenda today too.

Turning our backs on the refugee crisis would be deeply wrong - and would mean abandoning the values of compassion and humanity that we should be trying to defend from Isis attacks. A Syrian mother who had fled to Greece told me how women were being stoned in her town. Internet footage shows teenage boys being lined up and shot. In Sinjar, there are mass graves of Yazidi women - slaughtered for their faith. This is a new facism, a new totalitarianism - we won't fight it by shunning those who flee it.

And remember Isis want nothing more than to destroy international compassion for those who flee them. They hate the sanctuary we offer. They want to sow poison between peoples. That's how they recruit. Theirs is a perversion of Islam - condemned and reviled by Muslim communities across Britain and Europe.

Isis want to be the caliphate - the crusading home for Muslims fleeing the injustice of the West. Instead the opposite is happening. Europe is providing safe haven to Muslims persecuted by Isis brutality. Young people tempted by some romantic idea of running away to join the jihad are forced to face the brutal reality of stories from those fleeing Isis instead. In the battle for hearts and minds, we threaten Isis by giving sanctuary to refugees.

But that means we have to do even more to stop terrorists exploiting the refugee crisis they helped to create, and sustain public confidence in supporting refugees.

For a start that means proper registration, assessments and checks at Europes external borders. For months I have been calling for a proper registration process in Greece. It's urgently needed to manage the crisis, make sure there is the right level of humanitarian aid, to start assessing whether people are refugees or whether they have safe homes to go to, and to check passports, papers and security too. Greece can't do this alone. The Prime Minister has assured me that Britain is providing investment and expertise to make sure registration and checks happen properly. But from what I've seen on Lesbos it isn't working and significantly more help is needed.

But we also need better coordination within Europe to manage and assess people crossing the continent. Outside the Schengen agreement, countries like Britain, US and Canada are able to do security checks before refugees arrive through resettlement schemes. But as I argued a few months ago, continental Europe's Schengen system isn't coping with this crisis. Without internal border checks it is much harder to catch people traffickers who profit from desperation, harder to separate refugees from illegal migration, harder to manage humanitarian support in the right places. And crucially it is also harder to do security checks to stop criminals or known extremists, and to prevent weapons and firearms being transported across Europe too.

Indeed with or without the refugee crisis inadequate border controls makes it harder to track EU citizens such as the Belgian and French extremists involved the Paris attacks travelling to and from Syria.

European Ministers must not cling onto Schengen shibboleths in the face of this challenge. Unless they start adapting and managing things now to bring back border checks then European cooperation will struggle under the strain. If people don't feel there is a grip on who is coming into the continent or crossing borders, they will be worried about security and more reluctant to provide the support and sanctuary refugees so desperately need.

And we need proper management of the refugee crisis because it also cannot be a distraction from the wider security challenges Europe faces - including the strength of Isis in the Levant, the security resources, policing and intelligence programmes we need, and most important of all preventing the grooming and radicalisation of our own citizens, be it in France, Belgium, Britain or beyond.

This is a battle against totalitarianism, a battle for our values, and a battle for hearts and minds. Isis seeks to cow us and to divide us. Each time extremists have tried before to spread fear and hatred in Europe, they have failed and our continent has stood firm. We need to stand firm once again - that means supporting security, solidarity and sanctuary too.

Yvette Cooper is Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, chair of Labour's Refugee Taskforce