BEIRUT // As news of the Paris attacks broke, much of Europe was focused on what the extent of the carnage would be and what further attacks might be facing the continent.
But among the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled to Europe so far this year, many felt additional fears: that they would be blamed, that their presence would no longer be welcome and that new arrivals would be turned away.
“There is an extreme feeling of fear ... as many refugees know that the fingers will be pointed at us Muslims – Syrians specifically and Arabs in general,” said Ali Abu Al Majed, 27, an unemployed refugee from Syria’s Idlib province who arrived in France three months ago.
“I ... had one incident with an old French lady after the attacks. She told me Syrians are bad. I asked her if we could become friends but she replied by saying ‘no, one thousand nos’. She kept describing Islam as terrorism,” said Mr Al Majed, who now lives in Paris.
Sakher Adris, a 41-year-old journalist and refugee from the Syrian city of Hama, who arrived in France in January, said fear had controlled most of the refugees he knew since the attacks on Friday.
“There is now a responsibility on all of us Syrians to make these communities understand that we are also victims of the same terrorism that hit everyone,” said Mr Adris, who now lives in Paris’s western suburbs.
While the attackers were mostly French and Belgian, the discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of a suicide bomber at Paris’ Stade de France stadium – linked by authorities in Greece to a man who arrived on the Greek island of Leros last month – contributed to fears that the migrant route had been exploited by extremist groups.
The passport’s authenticity remains unconfirmed and across the world the idea that a suicide bomber’s passport would survive a blast was ridiculed on social media.
On the night of the attacks in Paris, a fire broke out in a large refugee camp in the northern French city of Calais. Though later confirmed to have been accidental, the incident sparked fears among refugees that they would face physical violence as retribution for the events in the capital.
But despite these fears, the real threat facing refugees after the attacks is the efforts by politicians who are using the killings to clamp down on immigration policy in Europe.
Far-right groups across the continent have been quick to seize on the attacks to push forward their anti-immigration platforms.
On Monday, the leader of the French far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, called for an “immediate halt” to France’s intake of migrants as a “precaution” after the Paris attacks.
Meanwhile, Poland’s incoming European affairs minister, Konrad Szymanski, said on Saturday that his country would not take in refugees under the European Union’s refugee distribution programme.
And on Sunday, Poland’s foreign minister suggested that the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees entering Europe could be turned into an army to liberate their homeland with Europe’s help.
“Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have come to Europe recently. We can help them form an army,” said Witold Waszczykowski. “Tens of thousands of young men disembark from their rubber dinghies with iPad in hand and instead of asking for food or drink, they ask where they can charge their cell phone.”
Concern over refugee arrivals has also spread across the Atlantic to the United States, which has only taken in a handful of refugees fleeing the Middle East's conflicts. In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, governors of more than 27 states said they opposed Syrian refugees settling in their states.
Hazem Dakel, a 25-year-old journalist from Syria’s Idlib province who has been living in Sweden since 2014, fled his home country after managing to escape a kidnapping by a rebel unit that later joined Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat Al Nusra.
Following the attacks in Paris, Mr Dakel said a conservative Swedish political party had sent him a petition to sign, asking the Swedish government not to let in more refugees.
“The letter justified the campaign as a way to prevent terror attacks against Sweden in the future,” he said. “So you can see how the attacks have been used against refugees.”
But overall, Mr Dakel says he has felt welcome in Sweden.
“I get treated nicely and I receive a good salary, housing, protection and everything that I need,” he said.
* Omar Al Muqdad reported from Washington.