French President Francois Hollande promised to honor his commitment to take in tens of thousands of refugees on Wednesday. He said France would do so despite concerns raised by ultra-right nationalist leaders that refugees might pose a security threat to the country.
“Some people say the tragic events of the last few days have sown doubts in their minds,” Hollande said, but added that it is a “humanitarian duty” to help the throngs of refugees who have landed on European shores after fleeing conflict and hardship in countries like Syria and Afghanistan.
In a speech to mayors from around France, Hollande said France would welcome 30,000 refugees over the next two years. That’s even more than the 24,000 he committed to accepting in September.
Hollande said that he would invest about $53.3 million to develop housing for refugees.
He added that that refugees will undergo thorough security checks before entering the country before addressing calls from the country’s largest opposition parties, the ultra-right Front National.
Acknowledging fears among many in France after 129 were killed in gun and bomb attacks on Friday, Hollande said, “[It is] our duty to protect our people.”
His decision sends a strong message to European countries like Poland which have been less willing to take in refugees and to the growing number of American governors who are attempting to block refugee resettlement in their home states.
The fear that ISIS fighters might pose as refugees to carry out attacks in Europe or the U.S. were stoked by a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the men involved in the Paris attacks. Greek and Serbian authorities said that it was issued to a Syrian man who registered as a refugee on the Greek island of Leros in October, and later applied for asylum in Serbia.
Many immigration experts and political leaders, however, have cast doubt on the connection between the attackers and the passports. They’ve noted that such humanitarian measures undermine ISIS’ argument that the West is at odds with Muslims.
On Thursday, Thomas de Maiziere, the interior minister of Germany, said that ISIS militants might have planted the passport at the scene of carnage at the Stade de France soccer stadium to implicate refugees and “make people feel unsafe” near them.
“There are indications that this was a planted lead, but it still can’t be ruled out that this was indeed an ISIS terrorist posing as a refugee,” he told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday.