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Reuters/Eric Gaillard
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Homegrown jihadists say they can freely travel between Europe and Syria because nobody checks their passports

Hanna Kozlowska
By Hanna Kozlowska

Investigative reporter

Following last week’s terrorist attacks that killed at least 129 in Paris, there was widespread outcry, especially among rightwing politicians, that terrorists could be among the throngs of Syrian refugees currently making their way to Europe.

But so far it seems that the majority of the attackers in Paris were EU citizens. That said, some were indeed able to travel back and forth between Europe and ISIL strongholds in Syria, thanks to shortcomings in the EU’s overwhelmed border-control system.

In some countries, as few as 1% of people entering the EU get checked against the Schengen Information System (SIS) anti-terror watch list, and the average is 10-20%, according to The Telegraph. The supposed architect of the Paris attacks, Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, boasted in an ISIL publication that he was able to pass between Syria and Europe despite being on a terror watchlist and having his details appear in Belgian media.

The system features a database 4,000 foreign fighters, as well as information on stolen vehicles, documents, and other data. Checking details against the database is up to individual member states; EU guidelines encourage swift and efficient border crossings.

After the attacks, French president François Holland imposed stricter checks at France’s borders. There are also calls for more sharing of intelligence between EU countries and a bolstering the bloc’s external borders (paywall). And so the tens of thousands of desperate Syrians seeking asylum in Europe may soon experience a major change in tone in the EU’s border policy due to the actions of a handful of European citizens in Paris.

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