When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Germany

German Police Warn Of Terrorist Infiltration Among Refugees

Border police and other German law enforcement unions say a black market of passports and insufficent border controls are creating a major security risk amidst the surge of Syrian refugees.

Refugees at the Austrian-German border last month
Refugees at the Austrian-German border last month
Manuel Bewarder

BERLIN — German police representatives warn of a serious security risk linked to refugees who have entered the country without being properly registered. According to the Police Trade Union and the German Union of Police Forces, only a fraction of incoming immigrants have had their fingerprints registered over the past few months, leaving an estimated tens of thousands of asylum seekers in the country who haven't undergone proper procedures.

In a recent letter addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Police Trade Union's Jörg Radek wrote that the federal police are "not capable of exercising their duty of danger prevention and law enforcement at the German-Austrian borders the way they are legally bound to."

The letter says that in "hundreds of thousands of cases," the German Border Patrol has absolutely "no idea who enters the country, under what name, and for what reason," a problem that officers say endangers state security.

ISIS captured thousands of passports

Die Welt has reported that ISIS had seized thousands of genuine passports in Syria, Iraq and Libya, which prompted Fabrice Leggeri, chief of the EU border management agency Frontex, to warn: "The waves of people entering Europe unchecked obviously represent a security risk." At least two of the terrorists in the Nov. 13 Paris attack had been registered as refugees in Greece.

"The security risk results from a deficit of controls at borders," says German Union of Police Forces chief Rainer Wendt. Law enforcement officials say that criminals exploit the chaos, making use of the waves of refugees to enter Germany unnoticed.

Says Police Trade Union's Radek: "Over the last couple of months, we have controlled not more than 10% of the incoming refugees."

After the Paris attacks in Paris, investigators quickly discovered that two of the terrorists had come to Europe by passing themselves off as refugees. Two of the passports found on the terrorists' bodies had been registered on the Greek island Leros on Oct. 3.

There are indications that other dangerous Islamists entered the country the same day — probably planning a future attack, according to the German National Security Authority. It is also at the origin of two refugees arrested in Salzburg, Austria, it emerged this week.

"Can't be ruled out"

"Considering the large number of immigrants, it can't be ruled out that among them could be criminals, members of militant groups or terrorist organizations, or individuals with extremist dispositions who were making use of the flow of migration to come to Germany," a source at the German Interior Ministry says.

The ministry warned in November of a surge in black market passports. Practically any Syrian document can be purchased. "As a result of the Syrian state of war, blank documents and seals, and software and hardware for their illegal replication, might have fallen into the hands of criminal organizations," the agency says.

André Schulz, chief of a federal detective union, confirms it's possible that terrorists are among the refugees. But, he adds, that risk has always been there with the open-border Schengen Area. What he considers more problematic is the fact that jihadists are equipped with ten thousands of real passports and machines to produce more.

So many undocumented

For experts of the Federal Police and Bavarian Border Patrol, it's not particularly complicated to recognize fake documents. Schulz says it's more problematic if falsified papers are being printed with real printers in the country of origin. "Those documents might have been captured by terrorists," he adds, "or the person is being infiltrated voluntarily by the government." An even bigger problem is the fact that most of the immigrants are carrying no documents with them at all, making identification difficult or impossible.

According to police estimates, only 25% to 30% of the immigrants coming to Germany through Austria carry a passport or another form of identity. "Passport inspections can't rule out all of the risk," Radek says. Nevertheless, he says that controls have become more effective thanks to new technical equipment and more personnel. "But if the number of immigrants continues to rise, we still won't be able to keep up," he adds.

There is an extra cruel irony that terrorists are infiltrating the ranks of desperate refugees. "Many of the immigrants are trying to escape ISIS," he says. "And now the same terror group is discrediting them in the new place where they've arrived."

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

LGBTQ Plus

Why Is Homophobia In Africa So Widespread?

Uganda's new law that calls for life imprisonment for gay sex is part of a wider crackdown against LGBTQ+ rights that is particularly harsh on the African continent.

Photo of LGBTQ Ugandan group

LGBTQ group in Uganda

Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

Uganda has just passed a law that allows for life imprisonment for same-sex sexual relations, punishing even the "promotion" of homosexuality. Under the authoritarian regime of Yoweri Museveni for the past 37 years, Uganda has certainly gone above and beyond existing anti-gay legislation inherited from British colonization.

But the country of 46 million is not alone, as a wider crackdown against LGBTQ+ rights continues to spread as part of a wider homophobic climate across Africa.

There is exactly one country on the continent, South Africa, legalized same-sex marriage in 2006, and another southern African state, Botswana, lifted the ban on homosexuality in 2019. But in total, more than half of the 54 African states have more or less repressive laws providing for prison sentences.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest