For anyone hoping to see more Syrian refugees in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker’s thoughts today were not encouraging.

“No, I’m not interested in accepting refugees from Syria,” he said during a state house press conference.

Noah Gottschalt, senior humanitarian representative for Oxfam America, says he’s disappointed in what he’s hearing now from Governor Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other politicians.

‘It’s definitely the case that there’s been really worrying and disturbing statements that have been out there from some politicians and some members of the public.” 

Boston-based Oxfam America is one of five non-governmental organizations that met with Obama Administration officials in September and convinced them to increase the number of Syrians to be resettled in the US from 15 hundred to 10 thousand.    And just how many refugees are we talking about in this area?

“I think it’s certain that New England and Massachusetts will probably receive several thousand refugees overall over the next year, given that we do have a quota of 85,000.  And among them at least a few hundred Syrians would be among the numbers statistically.”

But even that relatively small number is taking a big chance says Mayor Walsh, at least, he says, until the federal government puts a better system in place for screening out potential terrorists.  He fears what Syrian refugee flows into New England could mean:

“I think the United States government has to make sure that any individuals coming to the United States, any potential refugees, we would have to do an extensive background check on them and understand information on them before we let them into the country.  I mean there’s an opportunity with what’s going on in Syria into Germany and other places of putting in, of planting people into those areas.” 

Governor Charlie Baker in September said Massachusetts was willing to shelter some of the Syrian refugees.   But that was before the Paris terrorism attacks.  There is the fear that at least one of the Paris attackers made his way into France with the flow of Syrian refugees through Greece.  And Veryan Khan says concerns about Syrian immigration serving as a portal for ISIS infiltration is a legitimate fear.

“Today there are six known reported cases, actual case studies of Islamic State people hidden within the migrant community.”

But says Khan, who heads up TRAC, an anti-terrorism research organization, the prospect of infiltration should not be a reason to completely halt the resettlement of Syrians to this country and to New England.   She says that would hand terrorists a major victory in their efforts to further destabilize the Middle East and it would undermine America’s implicit commitments to the world’s dispossessed.