EU Report: Passport Security Alert

BERLIN (Reuters) -

The head of Frontex, the European Union’s border agency, has said the large number of refugees entering Europe poses a security risk, since the chaos of the civil war is making it harder to check the authenticity of Syrian passports.

Hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in countries such as Syria and Iraq have arrived in Europe this year. Since last month’s terror attacks in Paris, concern has grown that Islamist terrorists could enter undetected, among the influx.

“The big inflows of people who are currently entering Europe unchecked are of course a security risk,” Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, though he also said it would be wrong to regard all refugees as “potential terrorists.”

In Paris, a Syrian passport was found near the dead body of one of the terrorists and his fingerprints matched those of a person registered as arriving in Greece this past October, Greece being the main entry point for refugees and immigrants entering Europe.

Leggeri said that in a country going through civil war like Syria no one could guarantee that “the documents that look real are really issued by an official authority or are really being carried by their rightful owner.” Furthermore, diplomats reported earlier this month that European countries have circulated a watchlist of missing blank Syrian and Iraqi passports which they fear could be filled out with false data and used by people to travel to Europe and beyond. Such documents are harder to identify than outright fakes. One diplomat said the list contained serial numbers of thousands of genuine blank passports that were held in government offices in parts of Syria and Iraq that have since been captured by armed terror groups including Islamic State.

Welt am Sonntag said that according to Western intelligence services, Islamic State terrorists had probably procured tens of thousands of real passports after taking control of local authorities in parts of Syria, Iraq and Libya. They may also have seized machines used to produce identity documents. Without specifying its sources, the newspaper said that Islamic State was doing a brisk trade in the passports, which sell for $1,000-1,500 on the black market.