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Paris attacks – and now the fallout

16 November 20150 comments

The Paris attacks are in danger of transforming Europe’s migration crisis into a debate around security, sparking calls for restrictions on free movement across the continent’s borders.

Proponents of an open door policy for refugees in Europe are under pressure as it emerged that one of the attackers may have entered Europe as an asylum seeker carrying a Syrian passport.

The future for European leaders managing the migrant crisis and threat of ISIS will be difficult.

The future for European leaders managing the migrant crisis and threat of ISIS will be difficult.

France’s assertion that Islamic State militants planned the attacks are also fueling arguments over whether Europe is doing enough to protect itself from terrorists who might infiltrate the thousands of migrants arriving daily from the Middle East and elsewhere.

Evidence that some of the attackers crossed internal European Union boundaries to get to Paris have brought more demands from EU-skeptic politicians to abolish the continent’s system of open borders.

And in the US fifteen Republican governors and one Democrat have announced plans to block Syrian refugees from resettling in their states in the wake of last week’s attacks – although whether they have the power to do this is uncertain.

Border security has already been tightened in Belgium, Italy, and France, and some Eastern European nations and right wing politicians in Western Europe have called for smaller refugee quotas.

The EU’s agreement to spread refugees around Europe is also under threat in the wake of the attacks.

Poland’s incoming minister of European Affairs Conrad Szymanski wrote in an online article: “but faced with the tragic events in Paris, we don’t see political possibilities for its enforcement”.

Existing policies to control the influx of migrants appear to be in disarray. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the EU Commission’s executive have built an agreement around the registering of migrants at processing centres in so-called ‘hot spots’ in Greece and Italy.

But the agreement looks much less likely to stick in the face of rising fears and doubts on the part of many smaller European countries.

And the registrations now appear, in the wake of the Paris attacks, a problematic way of identifying potential terrorists.

The wholesale closure of national borders around Europe could lead to the build-up of migrants in the continent’s frontier countries such as Greece and Italy – who are least able to cope with them as winter approaches.

The Paris attacks followed terror outrages in Turkey and Lebanon and the downing of a Russian airliner – all of which have been blamed on ISIS.

But the most recent attack shifts focus on ISIS’ ability to strike major western cities and makes plain its strategy to stop a brain drain from the territory it controls.

ISIS has launched an online ad campaign to encourage doctors, teachers and oilfield technicians to stay put. But this has been negated by images of masses of Syrians and Iraqis trying to reach Europe.

Until now attacks in Europe have been carried out by home-grown terrorists usually radicalised via the internet and not by migrants or refugees.

The realisation that the attacks were carried out by at least one, and perhaps more, people who entered Europe as supposed asylum seekers is a game changer.Paris attacks

It could fuel perceptions by many Europeans that the inflow of refugees from the Middle East is bringing in terrorists which in itself will influence domestic politics in many countries.

Commentators in France have also said the attacks will make it harder to assimilate those already in Europe. This could make them more vulnerable to recruitment by ISIS.

For European leaders trying to manage both the migrant crisis and the threat of ISIS, the future looks to be very difficult.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist