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Terrorist attacks in Paris and migration: are they linked?

January 13, 2015

The terrorist attacks in which 17 innocents were killed in Paris between Wednesday 7 and Friday 9 January 2015 will soon reopen controversies about migration policies in Europe. To what extent are these attacks, though, really linked to migration?
Were the three perpetrators of the attacks migrants? Well, their parents were migrants, from Algeria and Senegal. But the terrorists themselves were not migrants. They were French citizens born in France. They had what is sometimes, ambiguously, called an “immigrant background”. The same applies to the French gunmen who committed killings in Montauban and Toulouse in March 2012 and in Brussels in May 2014.
If they were not migrants, were they connected to the hotbeds of global jihadism through migrant networks? With apparently one exception, they had all travelled to countries such as Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But they were not using migrant networks, i.e. networks which would have linked them to Algeria and Senegal, where their parents were born. Instead, they were using the same terrorist routes as other young French men and women, some without any immigrant background, who were videoed by the Islamic State carrying out multiple decapitations in Syria.
The only migrant at the scene of the attacks in Paris was the hero: Lassana Bathily, a young Malian Muslim who helped 15 French Jewish hostages to hide from the killer. Terrorist attacks committed in France and Belgium by French-born citizens are not relevant to current and future immigration policies. They touch, instead, on the functioning of key institutions, from schools to mosques, to prisons…

Philippe Fargues, Director of the Migration Policy Centre


The EUI, RSCAS and MPC are not responsible for the opinion expressed by the author(s). Furthermore, the views expressed in this publication cannot in any circumstances be regarded as the official position of the European Union.

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