The headline sounds threatening: “Syrians entered with forged ISIS passports“, reports the “Bild” newspaper this Tuesday. The report deals with about a dozen people who allegedly came to Germany as refugees, equipped with false Syrian papers, which had previously been stolen by the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS). Now they have gone into hiding.
The report fuels an old concern: terrorists could use the refugee movement to get to Europe. What is the truth about the fears? Is there a security risk – or is scaremongering the reason?
Does the Islamic State forge passports?
It is above all about so-called “genuine false passports“. These are original papers, but they do not belong to the person who identifies himself with them. Western secret services have been observing for months how the terrorist militia is bringing passport authorities – and thus blank documents, software and machines for the production of identity documents – under their control in their areas of influence.
In March of this year, the Federal Criminal Police Office confirmed that the IS had captured 3800 Syrian blank passports in its stronghold Rakka. The “Welt am Sonntag” recently reported tens of thousands of genuine passports that had fallen into the hands of the IS in Syria, Libya or Iraq.
The militia is thus in a position to equip assassins with papers that seem harmless at first glance. But the IS does not only use the captured passport documents to give terrorists a false identity. The sale of genuine false passports is a lucrative business: some of the papers can be sold for more than 1000 euros a piece. Here the IS acts like an ordinary criminal association.
Are terrorists coming to Europe with false passports?
In fact, at least two of the assassins from Paris came to Europe on the refugee route with false passports. They were registered on a Greek island among dozens of other Syrian refugees without attracting attention. Technically, they had a real document. However, Hans-Georg Maaßen, the head of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, recently emphasized that the IS was not dependent on the refugee camouflage for the attacks in Paris, but wanted to demonstrate its power.
In the Federal Ministry of the Interior it is said that the security authorities have been “sensitized for a long time that in the context of the current immigration movements falsified documents could be used“. It could also not be ruled out that the countless refugees entering Germany included “members of militant groups or terrorist organizations“.
The ministry, however, names them in line with normal criminals, war criminals and “individuals with an extremist attitude“. In other words: If so many people come, then there are a few black sheep among them.
What is behind the “Bild” report?
Referring to the German security authorities, Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) confirmed that in October and November “other persons” had arrived whose passports had similar serial numbers to Syrian passports captured by the IS. “This is known because copies of these passports were made at the time. Passports from such a series had also been found with two Paris assassins.
But what does that mean? Herrmann emphasized:
“An initial suspicion that there might be other people who had also been sent by the IS is obvious; at least it has to be clarified.”
NRW Interior Minister Ralf Jäger warned against placing Syrian refugees under general suspicion. The Federal Ministry of the Interior did not want to comment on the report.