News Analysis: Italian experts warn not to mix up migrant crisis with terror threat

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, April 21, 2016
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The increasing terror threat has led many Italians to be more suspicious about the incessant arrivals of migrants from African and Middle Eastern countries, but local experts say there is no real connection between the two issues.

Earlier this week, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano rubbished a report by German daily Bild speaking of Italian concerns over terrorists disguised as beach hawkers possibly blowing themselves up on Italian beaches.

Italy is facing growing flows of migrants across the Mediterranean sea.

Some 9,600 landed in March, mostly from Nigeria, Somalia and Gambia, more than double the number that came in February, according to the European Union (EU) border agency Frontex. Hundreds, including many children, have been reported dead or missing since the beginning of this year.

Local experts warn, however, that the terrorism and migrant issues must not be mixed up.

"A recent report of the Italian intelligence has said that terrorists are not reaching Europe via sea. In fact, none of those who took part in the Paris or Brussels attacks had crossed the Mediterranean," Sabrina Magris, a security expert and president of the Florence-based Ecole Universitaire Internationale (EUI), told Xinhua.

"We cannot exclude that there might be some infiltrations of terror sympathizers amid so many thousands of people, but the risk to die at sea would be too high indeed for terrorists who have been instructed and trained for an attack," she highlighted.

Magris said terrorists are more likely to take planes, travel in business class and sleep in luxury hotels.

One of the Brussels suicide bombers, Khalid El Bakraoui, was found for example to have transited in Italy by air and have spent the night in a four-star hotel in Venice, she noted.

In her view, intelligence services should pay special attention to the flows by air and also by buses, "given the large number of buses that are crossing Europe and can become an easy way to move from one country to another, avoiding strict controls."

But "true cooperation in the fight against terrorism" is what the EU especially needs, "as terrorists have proved capable of acting much faster than our institutions," Magris stressed.

Daniele Brigadoi Cologna, founder of the social research agency Codici and researcher on sociology of immigration at the University of Insubria, agreed on the "need to understand that the terrorism issue has very little to do with the migrant crisis."

The only link between them could be that the mismanagement of asylum seekers who flee wars and crises creates migration channels into Europe that might be infiltrated by potential terrorists, he said.

"We should remember that the terror attacks in Europe were carried out by people who were born and raised in European countries. It means that we are talking about Britain, French or Belgian citizens," Brigadoi Cologna said.

"We are mixing everything up, and the reason is that in Italy but also in other European countries the migration issue is used for electoral purposes rather than being looked at as a phenomenon that transforms societies and requests long-term investments in integration policies," he underlined.

But the lack of these long-term policies, he insisted, is exactly behind the social malaise which has aroused in European countries.

High differences in terms of language, ethnic groups, religion and culture should be the themes at the center of European debate, and not the protection of borders, Brigadoi Cologna highlighted, also referring to Austria's toughening of border controls as a response to the migrant crisis.

He recalled that Europe in the past decades has absorbed without big problems millions of refugees during the Yugoslavian and other conflicts. And the around one million migrants who reached Europe via sea last year, he added, are just 20 percent of all the migrants who arrived through regular routes from any part of the world.

"I am a convinced Europeanist. But the political deficit that Europe is showing now in this respect is discouraging, and risks to put in danger and break apart the EU," Brigadoi Cologna said. Enditem

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