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No refugees at Fort Indiantown Gap

Written by Daniel Walmer/Lebanon Daily News | Nov 24, 2015 8:14 AM
refugees_cuba_indiantown_gap.jpg

FILE PHOTO: Cuban refugees arriving at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa. on May 21, 1980.

Syrian refugee rumors were sparked by viral video

(Undated) -- Rumors sparked by a viral video of Syrian refugees being housed at Fort Indiantown Gap are unfounded, according to Gap officials and state and federal elected representatives.

The video, which has received more than 225,000 views on Facebook, purports to show a bus carrying refugees that were allegedly flown to Harrisburg International Airport in a United Parcel Service plane.

"These buses - probably about 30 of them - lined up on the outside of a UPS flight at Harrisburg International Airport ... We caught them red-handed, man, sneaking in people," the video narrator says.

The shadowy video offers little evidence for its claims, showing only glimpses of the rear of a bus on a public highway. However, it led to rumors that refugees would be housed at Fort Indiantown Gap, perhaps due to memories of the Gap's refugee resettlement camps in the 1970s.

Gap spokeswoman Angela King-Sweigart said there are no refugees currently housed at the military base, and there are no plans that she is aware of to house them in the future. The rumor was also disputed by state Representative Russ Diamond and by Shawn Millan, communications director for U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent.

"We had not heard these rumors until approached by the Lebanon Daily News," Millan said in an e-mailed statement. "We learned that no Syrian refugees are at Ft. Indiantown Gap."

Several officials also said it is very unlikely that refugees would be transported by a UPS flight.

"UPS is a cargo airline and has not been involved in passenger flights of any kind into or out of Harrisburg. Suggestions to the contrary are based on misinformation," Susan Rosenberg, UPS public relations director, told mythbusting website TruthorFiction.com.

President Barack Obama's decision to continue accepting Syrian refugees into the United States after terrorist attacks in Paris has ignited a national controversy. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued statements supporting the refugee policy, while many Republicans - including Dent, Diamond and U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello - have expressed safety concerns and said the government should pause to reevaluate the refugee screening process.

"[W]ith recent events in France and elsewhere, we must now step back and properly assess whether these Syrian refugees are in fact refugees, or embedded agents of our enemies," Diamond said last week.

Supporters have described the refugee screening process as thorough and safe and have characterized attempts to refuse refugees - including women and children - as contrary to American values. Despite attempts to link safety concerns with the Paris attacks, most identified attackers have been determined to be European citizens, not Syrian refugees, according to multiple media reports.

Diamond said it would be difficult to stop the federal government from bringing refugees to Fort Indiantown Gap if it decided to do so. He hopes that state and federal elected officials would be told if a group of refugees was brought to the area.

Lebanon County Administrator Jamie Wolgemuth said the county likely would not even be made aware of refugee arrivals at the Gap.

"We wouldn't typically be notified of anything like that, unless they did it as a courtesy," Wolgemuth said.


This article comes to us through a partnership between Lebanon Daily News and WITF. 

Published in Lebanon

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