Is migration an ISIS Trojan horse?
As thousands of Arabs and Africans test their luck at crossing the Mediterranean, there is confusion and mayhem as untold stories of human tragedy unfold.
Caught in the middle are the refugees, whom everybody claims to care about.
Right-wing politicians, such as those of Italy’s Northern League, have been quick to fan the flames of fear when Tunisian authorities raised the possibility that a Moroccan illegal migrant could have been involved in helping the perpetrators of the March 18th attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis where 20 foreign tourists were killed.
From just speculating on the possibility of an isolated infiltration incident some politicians quickly jumped the gun. Infiltrating agents into what was once known as Fortress Europe has become a simple feat, they claimed: Just pretend you are a refugee seeking political or economic asylum and that all that you seek is a better life for you and your children in Europe.
For the fanatics of the Islamic State (ISIS), who have vowed to attack the West, sending sleeper agents into Europe along with the tens of thousands of undocumented refugees is a possibility. The sheer number of refugees flowing towards Europe across the Mediterranean has become unmanageable for Italian authorities, who are overwhelmed by the thousands who arrive daily. The Italians, much like the rest of Europe, are simply not geared up to handle that many people.
If the possibility of infiltration materialises, groups opposed to liberal immigration policies will have a field day, pressing the point that it is time for Europe to close ranks and bar its doors to an immigration policy gone mad. Those opposed to liberal immigration policies will be pushing for greater control of the borders. However, there has been no evidence of ISIS smuggling its foot soldiers with the illegal migrants.
What is obvious is that migrants are caught in the crossfire as European politicians, right and left, use the migration problem as an electoral Trojan horse. Fear of illegal migrants can get you elected to public office in Europe and oust your imprudent rival.
Whole governments take the issue seriously. Accepting (or refusing) the asylum quota attributed to your country by the EU bureaucracy is a big issue. About 200,000 Syrians have filed for asylum in Europe. Those who will be accepted will be less than a fraction of that number. Germany, which seems to be the most coveted location by refugees, is not pleased to have the distinction being the prime destination by Mediterranean boat people.
And don’t think the political jockeying is limited to the northern shore of the Mediterranean. Both of the rival Libyan governments — the Islamist authorities of Tripoli and the internationally recognised rivals of Tobruk — would like to use the immigration crisis to impose themselves on the international community as the only negotiating partner. Meanwhile EU navies are preparing their cannons to shoot at suspicious boats in the ports of Libya.
Either way, the Europeans face a conundrum: how to maintain a humanitarian face while giving priority to security issues that, with the appearance of ISIS on the European scene, is becoming a problem that no European government can ignore.