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National Security & Defense

‘A Careless Skier’

The Paris atrocities will inevitably have sharpened the debate over immigration in Europe, particularly so far as the latest wave of refugees/migrants is concerned, not least because of this (via the Guardian):

One of the most chilling details from the Paris attacks is that the passport of a Syrian refugee was found on or near the body of a dead suicide bomber. The Greek government has subsequently said that someone using the passport was among the refugees who landed in the Greek islands in early October, and the Serbian government says the passport was again used to cross its southern border a few days later.

As even the Guardian concedes, the fears that such a finding provokes “should not be dismissed out of hand”:

Thousands of refugees arrive on the Greek islands every day. While each has to be registered before they can make it to the Greek mainland, the process is a brief formality rather than a lengthy investigation. In registrations witnessed by the Guardian during the summer, refugees simply presented identification to the Greek authorities, before being allowed to leave minutes later without anything like a background check.

Since October, each arrival has also been fingerprinted but officials still do not have the time nor the resources to assess whether or not they’re connected to militant groups. Should a would-be terrorist want to reach Europe via the Greek islands, it would be relatively simple to do.

The newspaper then points out that the “vast majority” of the Syrian refugees are not ISIS supporters. That’s true enough, but it only takes a tiny minority to wreak havoc. And that’s before we look at the question of the second generation, a question that cannot be ignored at a time when the children and (I assume) grand-children of immigrants are leaving Europe to fight for ISIS. 

More reasonably, the newspaper adds this: 

The second reason for caution is more specific. Investigators still need to verify the Syrian passport was carried by an attacker rather than a dead bystander (one Egyptian passport-holder initially believed to be an assailant turned out to be an injured victim). They will then need to be certain that the passport’s carrier was the same as the passport’s legitimate owner.

The Guardian also raises the possibility that the passport was stolen or forged. That could easily be the case, but it should be remembered that the value of a Syrian passport as an admission ticket to Europe was very substantially increased by the “indispensable” (The Economist) Angela Merkel’s decision to essentially override the EU’s (admittedly flawed) asylum procedures, and extend a welcome in Germany to (effectively) all Syrian passport-holders who could make it there.

That was a decision made all the more controversial by the  substantial increase this year in the number of migrants pouring into the country from elsewhere.

Reuters reports:

“The days of uncontrolled immigration and illegal entry can’t continue just like that. Paris changes everything,” Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soeder told Welt am Sonntag newspaper. His comments came after Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer, leader of Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), urged better protection of Germany’s frontier and called for stricter controls at Europe’s external borders.

“The CSU stands behind the chancellor, but it would be good if Angela Merkel acknowledged that the opening of the border for an unlimited period of time was a mistake,” Soeder said. The Bavarian security cabinet is expected to meet later on Sunday to discuss steps in the wake of the Paris attacks, in which the Foreign Ministry said one German citizen was among those killed. Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel have both warned against making any hasty links between the assault and the refugee debate.

German officials indicated that Merkel saw no reason to revise her stance on refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks.

But the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence services also sounded the alarm, calling for “orderly procedures” regarding the handling of the daily entry of thousands of refugees and warning extremists could exploit the sometimes chaotic migration situation.

While German police are currently conducting passport checks at border crossings and in border areas, thousands of refugees are thought to be coming into the country without any checks. Soeder said a government had a duty to care for its own people as a priority, adding Germany needed a migration strategy with an official cap to limit the numbers of new arrivals.

If Europe’s external borders could not be protected, Germany had to secure its own frontier, he said. This could also include unconventional steps like closing border crossings, Soeder said. Germany has registered some 760,000 people entering the country from January to October, and government officials expect the number of asylum seekers to rise further until year-end.

“One million is way to much. Conceivable at best is an orderly immigration of between 200,000 and 300,000 people,” Soeder said.

Merkel has repeatedly refused to announce a national cap, saying there cannot be a limit to the constitutionally enshrined right to asylum. But she has said Europe should think about agreeing on joint quotas for refugees.

It’s refreshing to see Merkel, a politician so careless with Germany’s constitutional arrangements during her defense of the euro, suddenly so solicitous of them.  And it’s certainly true (and no good pretending otherwise) that the existing legal position is very unhelpful indeed to those that would like to see a tougher line. Nevertheless, by her irresponsibility in essentially announcing that Germany’s gates were to be opened even wider still, an irresponsibility made no more acceptable by the sanctimony in which she has wrapped it, Merkel has made a bad situation worse. There is no reason that any other EU country should bail her out.

Speaking the other day, Wolfgang Schäuble, Merkel’s finance minister, warned that Germany was facing an “avalanche” of refugees set off by a “careless skier”.

Who can he have been talking about? 

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