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Politics & press news – Embassy 60

Lack of refugee vetting is risk to EU - Home Affairs chair

Inadequate controls of the European Union’s external borders in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis is a serious security threat, Home Affairs Select Committee Chair Keith Vaz MP cautioned at a recent gathering of consuls.

The Home Affairs Committee chief’s warning came prior to the terrorist attacks in Paris, where it is believed at least one of the perpetrators was carrying a Syrian passport and had entered Europe posing as a ‘fake’ refugee.

Describing his recent visit to refugee “hotspots” on the EU’s borders, Vaz said he had not been convinced that the “screening” of those applying for asylum was effective. 

“This is a big problem. You cannot do proper sifting when you have a million people on your doorstep. It could be the case that Daesh is infiltrating the refugees.”

 Vaz, a former Europe Minister at the Foreign Office, said the EU had made “big mistakes” in dealing with the migration issue, particularly in its failure to engage in dialogue with the countries on its border, notably Turkey.

“The EU’s inability to engage and understand what Turkey has been going through over the past 18 months has led to the crisis getting worse... We have allowed Turkey to absorb millions of migrants at huge costs and now it is no longer able to cope.”

He added that there was a lack of dialogue between EU countries over whether they could take in migrants. “Some EU countries have just had elections and these new governments are going to be very tough on migrants,” he warned.

Vaz said Chancellor Merkel had taken a “brave decision” to suspend EU rules and welcome refugees, but the failure of member states to take a “common line” on burden sharing had worsened the crisis which was threatening the future of the Schengen area. “We need clear principles or we face the embarrassment of [EU] borders being closed,” he said.

Vaz went on to say that the UK had made the decision to take 20,000 refugees directly from the refugee camps, not only because they were the most vulnerable, but also out of security concerns.

According to the Home Secretary Theresa May, Britain has been working closely with the UNHCR, which has a thorough vetting process of refugees, including the taking of biometrics,  document checks, interviews and screening against issues such as war crimes.   They then face a second screening from the Home Office, she added.

European heads of mission have privately expressed their concern at the lack of control of those entering EU borders: “This worries us. We have no idea who we are letting in,” one Ambassador told Embassy.

A Middle Eastern diplomat told Embassy that traffickers habitually take passports off their human cargo. “We are concerned that these documents are now being recycled among Daesh terrorists,” he said.

Home Affairs Committee Chairman Keith Vaz MP

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