Fo­cus on pass­port high­lights lack of mi­grant checks in EU

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEL­GRADE: The fo­cus on a Syr­ian pass­port found near the body of a sui­cide bomber in the Paris at­tacks high­lights an un­com­fort­able re­al­ity: Euro­pean au­thor­i­ties are com­plet­ing few checks on the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple mov­ing across their ter­ri­tory flee­ing war and poverty.

Paris pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice said yes­ter­day that the man who blew him­self up out­side the na­tional soc­cer sta­dium was found with a Syr­ian pass­port with the name Ah­mad Al Mo­ham­mad, a 25-year-old born in Idlib. It said fin­ger­prints from the at­tacker match those of some­one who passed through Greece in Oc­to­ber.

Be­sides Greece, the pass­port was reg­is­tered in Oc­to­ber in Ser­bia and Croa­tia, all three coun­tries on the cor­ri­dor that crosses the Balkans and is known for lax con­trols and ease in ob­tain­ing tran­sit doc­u­ments. The owner was al­lowed to pro­ceed be­cause he passed what is es­sen­tially the only test in place - he had no in­ter­na­tional ar­rest war­rant against him, po­lice in the states said.

It was not clear whether the pass­port was real or fake, but traf­fick­ing in fake Syr­ian pass­ports has in­creased as hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple try to get refugee sta­tus, the chief of the Euro­pean Union border agency Fron­tex has said. Most of those who en­ter coun­tries on the so­called Balkan cor­ri­dor for mi­grants - Greece, Mace­do­nia, Ser­bia and Croa­tia - are reg­is­tered with au­thor­i­ties. Their data are checked against In­ter­pol records, and their fin­ger­prints and pho­tos are taken. But, many peo­ple tell of­fi­cials that they’ve lost their iden­tity pa­pers, and they can give false names and other in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing their coun­try of ori­gin. A large ma­jor­ity of mi­grants de­clare them­selves as Syr­i­ans from the war-torn coun­try, al­though they have no doc­u­ments to prove it, Ser­bian po­lice say. Syr­ian refugees have a bet­ter chance of get­ting asy­lum in Ger­many than those clas­si­fied as eco­nomic mi­grants from Afghanistan, Iraq or Pak­istan.

In Ser­bia, some 490,000 mi­grants have passed through this year, and many say they don’t have doc­u­ments - making it im­pos­si­ble to check for ter­ror­ist con­nec­tions or crim­i­nal his­to­ries, to ver­ify their back­grounds, Ser­bian of­fi­cials said Sun­day. There are no recorded cases of peo­ple be­ing turned away af­ter ran­dom checks any­where in the Balkan mi­grant cor­ri­dor. That may be be­cause the cor­ri­dor states want mi­grants to pass through quickly, with­out get­ting stuck in their ter­ri­tory for a long time be­fore reach­ing rich EU states such as Ger­many, Swe­den or France.

“No one can know for cer­tain where they come from, their true iden­tity or if their doc­u­ments are gen­uine,” Ser­bian la­bor min­is­ter Alek­san­dar Vulin said. “The Paris sus­pects have not been reg­is­tered any­where as ter­ror­ists, so Ser­bia could not have known that they rep­re­sent a dan­ger.” Fron­tex spokes­woman Ewa Mon­cure told The As­so­ci­ated Press that “among some 500,000 peo­ple, you will find some with false doc­u­ments.” “There is al­ways a cer­tain per­cent­age of false Syr­ian pass­ports and iden­tity doc­u­ments re­vealed on the Greek border,” she said.

The holder of the pass­port found next to the bomber’s body is reg­is­tered as en­ter­ing Greece on Oct. 3, Greek of­fi­cials said, adding that the pass­port owner en­tered the coun­try through Leros, one of the east­ern Aegean is­lands that tens of thou­sands have been us­ing as a gate­way into the Euro­pean Union.

The owner of the pass­port then for­mally re­quested asy­lum in Ser­bia Oct. 7, ac­cord­ing to a Ser­bian po­lice state­ment. The doc­u­ment al­lowed him three days to pass through the coun­try on his way to Croa­tia. Po­lice did not give a name, iden­ti­fy­ing the pass­port’s owner only as A.A.

The pass­port-holder en­tered Croa­tia from Ser­bia on Oct 8, Croa­t­ian po­lice spokes­woman Helena Bio­cic said Sun­day. The owner was not flagged as sus­pi­cious and then pro­ceeded to Hun­gary and Aus­tria. The pass­port was found af­ter Fri­day’s at­tack on France’s na­tional sta­dium, next to the body of one of three sui­cide bombers who blew them­selves nearby. In all, 129 peo­ple were killed in Paris in the violence, the worst in France in decades. Au­thor­i­ties said three teams of at­tack­ers were in­volved in the gun and bomb at­tacks on the sta­dium, a con­cert hall and Paris cafes. — AP

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