Europol mission to target potential terrorists at Greek migrant camps

Refugees and migrants wait to be registered at the refugee camp near the village of Moria, on the Greek island of Lesbos. File photo. © Alkis Konstantinidis
A team of 30 anti-terrorism experts are to be dispatched by Europol to Greek migrant camps in the hopes of weeding out potential terrorists, media report.

The specialists will arrive at the Greek islands by the end of this month, AFP reports, citing Greek police sources.

Europol believes there may be existing and would-be terrorists among the crowds arriving from the Middle East, given that some of the terrorists behind the November 2015 Paris attacks are known to have passed through Greece among refugees. However, as EU Observer noted, the agency said in its 2015 situation report there have only been isolated cases of this happening.

The team’s mission is to do secondary security checks to identify those who have become radicalized.

“In a nutshell, Europol cross-checks data submitted by its partners against data held in specialist counter-terrorist and other Europol databases,” Europol spokesperson Alexandru Niculae told FRANCE 24.

The decision to deploy a team was reached in mid-May. As Director of Europol Rob Wainwright explains, it was motivated by “complex security challenges… including at the external border of the EU where high migratory pressures are exploited by criminal organizations.”

“Although seen on a much less frequent scale suspected terrorists also use these channels to move in and out of the Europe. Combating these movements is already a top priority for the EU and the Member States involved. With this important decision taken today Europol will significantly reinforce its capacities to support these authorities in this critical work to safeguard our borders,” Wainwright said at that time.

The number of migrant arrivals has dropped significantly this year, since the implementation of the March deal between Ankara and Brussels which sees migrants who have illegally arrived to the EU sent back to Turkey.

Recent reports suggest numbers could be rising again, although Greek Migration Policy Minister Yiannis Mouzalas denied that this is the case.  

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“We have a daily average of 80-100 people and that has roughly been the average since the beginning of the agreement,” he told Greece’s Kathimerini daily, which was the first to report details on the Europol mission deployment.

Greece now houses 60,000 potential asylum seekers, who live in more than 30 temporary camps.