Remember that Syrian passport found next to the body of one of the Paris attackers? And the Republican leadership which was so quick to claim that it meant a Syrian refugee was one of the attackers?
Turns out, the passport was a fake—it is, in fact, a passport with the same details as another man arrested in a Serbian refugee center. Both individuals claimed to be Ahmad al-Mohammad. Mohammad actually died months earlier fighting in the Syrian army.
A myriad of individuals are desperate to acquire Syrian passports because possession of the document now automatically grants the right to asylum in any country; thus, a potentially dangerous black market for Syrian passports has materialized.
The individuals hankering for these passports are not all involved with militant organizations or members of ISIL—most are Syrian refugees, displaced due to the Syrian civil war. Ewa Moncure, a spokeswoman for the European Union’s border agency, told NPR that, “most of those who sought the documents [are] in fact victims of the Syrian Civil War…they are coming from a war-torn country. Probably many had to leave their homes rather quickly. Maybe some didn’t have passports, and obtaining a Syrian passport right now—it’s probably extremely difficult. These are people who’ve been on the move, sometimes for several years. These are people who some of their children were born outside Syria.”
And it's not just Syrian refugees—according to Kevin Knodell, "several European countries have agreed to take in Syrian refugees, but for millions more — Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, Eritreans, Yemenese, Somalis and others — are fleeing violence and deprivation in their homelands but are disqualified for programs aimed at Syrians."
The issue is that terrorists working for the Islamic State can take advantage of this same market, as one of the Paris attackers did. According to Sky News, even in February, “Foreign fighters seeking to join Islamic State are using black-market Syrian passports to enter through Turkish border checkpoints,” which is clearly a significant problem, as once they enter Europe, it becomes easier to move between countries.
The difficulty lies in reconciling the legitimate need of many refugees to obtain passports so they can seek the asylum they critically need, and the ease this affords terrorists who wish to infiltrate countries accepting refugees.
Banner Image Credit: Twitter, @Reuters