This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
This past year’s events have already caused considerably heated debates on Europe’s illegal immigration crisis. Now the November 13 attacks in Paris have thrown fuel on an already incendiary debate.
In his address to the world following the terrorist attacks, French President François Hollande declared a state of emergency and said all of the country’s borders would be closed, fearing other attackers could be making their way in. Slovenia, Austria and Germany also suspended their open borders system.
Authorities throughout Europe who catch refugees crossing the border are legally required to collect their fingerprints and file them in a European database. Those refugees are then officially processed for asylum status in that country and are not allowed to seek asylum elsewhere. If the refugees move on to their intended final destination, they can be turned back.
EU member states have called for systematic controls of EU citizens at the bloc’s external borders and for full use of available technology to counter terrorism inside the Schengen area. The push for systematic checks is being resisted by the EU Commission, which says the code already provides for the necessary controls and that member states need only to fully implement existing provisions, as article 7.2 in the Schengen Code states that “border guards may consult national and European databases” to check that any EU citizen entering Schengen has not been red-flagged. However, with the memory of the Paris attacks still fresh and with Brussels shut down due to terror alerts for several days now, some countries are demanding that more be done.
Sweden, for example, has proposed the introduction of biometric passport controls at the external borders of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone. The statement came a day after Swedish security police raised the terror threat level and said they were hunting a man suspected of planning an attack. Swedish media reported that the suspect was a member of the Islamic State group which claimed responsibility for last the attacks in Paris.
Viktor Orban, Hungarian Prime Minister, called for an impenetrable external border to boost security and save the Schengen treaty on passport-less travel within the EU. The EU’s “number one job is to defend the borders and to control who is coming in.”
Some, then, propose to tighten control outside the Schengen borders while others, such as France, act as if saying that each country must stand on its own and enforce its own entrance regulations.
These border control technologies, however, seem to touch only a certain part of the problem, assuming that migrants are less likely to operate without finding an existing terror cell already operating on European soil. Those terrorists are not necessarily migrants, but are full citizens of the European Union, free to come and go as they please. Border control alone can in no way reveal their plans, biometric or not. European security services must implement intelligence measures into their strategy rather than operate based on assumptions and notions. In these stressful times, technology might be the key to allow us some level of security without losing some of the West’s core values – humanity and dignity.