Refugees and the Presumption of Innocence


For many months now, we’ve all heard/read on TV and the Internet the notion that if we were to allow refugees into our societies, we would expose ourselves to terrorists who mask themselves as refugees. This sentiment is shared across multiple continents, but primarily by persons with a strong sense of nationalism.

Let’s remove all talk about what constitutes an economic refugee vs. a political refugee or the economic and cultural impacts of allowing refugees into our societies. I want to focus on the fear of the potential risks of allowing a foreign terrorist disguised as a refugee.

I argue that this fear is baseless and goes against a precedent which is thousands of years old: The Presumption of Innocence.

The presumption of innocence is the principle that one is considered innocent unless proven guilty. In law, this is a right of any person accused in a criminal or civil case, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

This right is so important in modern democracies, constitutional monarchies and republics that many have explicitly included it in their legal codes and constitutions.

But why is this so important? What does it have to do with refugees?

Aside from the fact that that notion of guilty until proving innocent is open to the most extremes and unsustainable acts of corruption, I believe that we as a society have decided that one of the most evil things that can happen to a person is to be falsely condemned and made to suffer for it.

Think about it. The act of sentencing an innocent man/woman to death is one of the most deplorable acts we can imagine.

Here is a different way of looking at it: We would rather take the risk of acquitting a murderer and letting him/her back into society than to find a innocent person guilty of a crime he/she did not commit.

Sir William Blackstone (1765) said it best in his Commentaries on the Laws of England:

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”.

This is it. This is the ideal we modern societies try to live to. Like a said, this notion has not changed in thousands of years. We, the members of society, believe it to be just, fair, and morally good. Period.

Back to the refugees… (can you see where I’m going with this?)

If the presumption of innocence is so universal, why would we not apply it to the refugee question?

Simply stated: We should rather allow these so called “risky refugees” into our societies than condemn them to whatever hell they were escaping from.

To treat them all as potential terrorists is no different than subscribing to the notion of guilty until proven innocent. History has shown that this doesn’t work for anyone but the most corrupt in our societies.

Only after we get passed this baseless and immoral fear, can we then spend brain cells on trying to find the best solutions to these kinds of problems.

Thank you for reading,

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