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21st Jul 2019

EU border agency highlights terrorist threat

  • Up to 3,770 people died trying to reach Europe last year, the International Organisation for Migration estimates (Photo: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov)

The EU's border control agency has called for more access to security data, warning that terrorists could use migration routes to infiltrate Europe.

Warsaw-based Frontex said in a “threat analysis” reportpublished on Wednesday (6 April): “The Paris attacks in November 2015 clearly demonstrated that irregular mi­gratory flows could be used by terrorists to enter the EU.”

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  • Frontex officials are already helping Greece to screen people (Photo: Frontex)

It noted that two of the Paris killers had entered the EU via the Greek island of Leros using fake Syrian papers.

“False declarations of nationality are rife among nationals who are unlikely to obtain asylum in the EU … with no thorough check or penalties in place for those mak­ing such false declarations, there is a risk that some persons representing a secu­rity threat to the EU may be taking ad­vantage of this situation,” the report said.

It said “criminal organisations have access to a large number of stolen blank Syrian pass­ports and printers used for their personalisation”, which allowed them to make “genuine­ looking passports, which may be difficult to identify even by experienced document experts”.

Arms smuggling

The report also said that arms smuggling from the Western Balkans compounded the risk.

It noted that two days before the Paris attacks German police intercepted a cache of AK47 rifles, pistols, grenades and explosives that had been taken by car from Montenegro by a man linked to the Paris terrorists.

It also said that AK47s and rocket launchers can be bought on the internet from places like Bosnia, “where around 800,000 weapons are estimated to be in illegal civilian posses­sion”.

Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri added in a statement: “Frontex urgently needs to be given access to SIS, VIS, Eu­rodac, Europol and Interpol databases which are relevant for border checks.”

The Schengen Information System (SIS) is a database on suspicious persons used by the 25 member states of the Schengen passport-free travel area. The Visa Information System (VIS) contains information on Schengen visa requests.

Eu­rodac is an EU-wide fingerprint database of all asylum seekers aged 14 or older. Europol is the joint EU police body in The Hague. Interpol is an international police body in Lyon, France.

'Actionable intelligence'

“Operations against criminals involved in migrant smuggling can be sharpened by actionable intelligence,” Leggeri added.

The 72-page threat report uses the words terror, terrorist and terrorism 24 times. It is grist to the mill of some EU states, such as Poland, who don’t want to take part in EU migrant relocations.

But Frontex poured cold water on claims that migrants also pose a health risk.

It said the World Health Organisation had already made it clear that was “no evidence to suggest” that “migration may pose a threat of the spread of infectious diseases”.

“Refugees and migrants are mainly exposed to the infectious diseases that are common in Europe,” Frontex added.

It also noted that migrants were the most vulnerable group of people in Europe.

It said 470 bodies had been reported in the Mediterranean in 2015 – more than double the previous year. But it noted that the International Organisation for Migration, a Geneva-based body, estimated that the real number of victims was 3,770.

EU-Turkey deal

The EU-Turkey deal is to see another 200 asylum seekers sent back from Greece to Turkey this week after a first group of 202 people were returned on Monday.

"This arrangement will prevent the Aegean Sea being turned into a cemetery for migrants," Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in parliament on Tuesday.

But media reports indicate that more people continue to arrive in Greece than are being sent back.

The Frontex paper said there were 1,820,000 detections of illegal border crossings to the EU last year in what it called a “never­before­seen figure” that was six times higher than 2014.

The vast majority of detections took place on the Turkey-Greece route (885,336) and the Greece-Macedonia route (764,038). It said the Central Mediterranean route from north Africa to Italy saw 154,000 detections.

The figures for the Morocco-Spain route were “relatively low” and numbers from West Africa to the Spanish Canary Islands were “negligible”. But it said an increase in crossings from Russia to Finland and Norway (1,920 compared with 1,275 in 2014) had created a new concern.

The majority of people claiming asylum are from Syria (33 percent), Afghanistan (15 percent), and Iraq (6 percent).

But 31 percent of people coming to Europe were classified by the agency as “not specified” in a figure that included up to 20,000 Palestinians who fall into the category because there is no Palestinian state.

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