Over the past several months, the situation consisting of African and Middle Eastern immigrants traveling in large waves across the Mediterranean has once again dominated the news. Terms such as “humanitarian disaster” and “moral duty” have often been brought forward, with many on the more left leaning side of the European political establishment highlighting the righteous duty that they have to welcome these immigrants with open arms. While I do not doubt that the situation that these refugees do face in their home countries is dire (see Syria and Eritrea), the by and large unregulated assent of the countries facing the brunt of this immigration such as Italy pose many risks to the integrity of the common union for their economies and national security. Leaving the economic aspect out of the focal point for now, I would like to focus on, what I believe, is a substantial security risks for the nations that make of the Schengen Area.
Several illustrious examples of the risk of unabated travel through nations exist in the last several years. A plethora of first generations have been involved in attacks on European targets, such as Mohammad Merah, who had traveled Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mehdi Nenmouche, who had participated in the Syrian conflict, and the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack. These men, who had all traveled abroad for training, highlight the risk that is currently facing the European Union when it has such a porous border and allows for free travel among member nations. Some estimates list the number of European fighters involved in the current Syrian conflict at more than 3,000, many of which have European passports and citizenships.
This is where the issue of illegal immigration has come into play. With the Italian and Greek immigration authorities overwhelmed by the massive numbers of immigrants, processing times have increased drastically. At this point, immigrants are held in camps on islands such as Lampedusa or even on the mainland. Although Italy has a very strict policy of immigration and most of the immigrants end up being deported, there are a large number that attempt to escape the camps and many succeed. The Deutsche Welle lists the numbers of undocumented immigrants that have been able to sneak past authorities in the hundreds of thousands, which begs the question, will Jihadists attempt to use this route to cross into Europe and carry out attacks there?
With regards to this question, many examples of ISIS and other groups openly discussing such methods have come to light in recent days. Considering the unrest in Libya and the active Jihadi scene, the Italian Coast Guard has begun to worry whether they may become targets of attack. The number of reports regarding ISIS and other groups posing as refugees in order to travel back to Europe has also increased. “Isis militants are allegedly being smuggled into Europe among groups of refugees, a member of the jihadist group who claimed to be in charge of the operation said.” Islamist bloggers have also been opening in discussing ways that the groups may be able to use the current chaotic situation to their advantage.
All in all, it may seem cold and inhumane to ignore the plight of the immigrants seeking a better life in Europe, with the cards that they have been dealt in their own countries. After all, the United States was and still in an immigrant society, where we value all of the differences such a society espouses. However, in order to protect these differences, realist thinking is required and a rush to open borders for such a flood is ill-advised.