'Mission Impossible: Vetting thousands of refugees on EU borders'

© Leonhard Foeger
Former FBI agent and head of Global Intel Strategies James Conway said it is difficult to screen all the people crossing European borders as there is no common database with Syria and Iraq.

READ MORE: House votes for bill making Syrian refugee admission almost impossible 

The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday preventing refugees from being admitted into the US. The legislation poses a challenge to President Obama's promise to welcome 10,000 from Syria.

RT: To what extent has the migrant influx compromised European security?

James Conway: Well, it has and it hasn’t. Any successful counter-terrorism program has to include border security.  Egress in and out of the country - that is always going to be a part of it. But there are a lot of other tools in the tool box of counter-terrorism agents.

Europe has a very unique situation in as much as its population or its demographics are much different than us here in the US. As we saw in the past week with the attacks in Paris, I guess I can say, sadly, it didn’t surprise me, because of the population that’s there as well as the movement in and out of their open borders within the EU.

RT: Is German Chancellor Angela Merkel's open door policy in particular to blame? Is it an open door for terrorists?

JC: Well, it is. We all live within benevolent societies, so we do want to help folks – particularly those who are refugees from war zones. But we must be concerned about our own national security and about the public safety of our citizens. And part and parcel of that is some kind of a vetting process or screening process for folks that are coming onto our soil. I think that is just common sense. The difficulty which we all face now is that the vetting process is nearly a mission impossible; it is very, very difficult because you have large groups of people coming: families, people coming as single individuals. We just don’t know who they are.

And I used to go through this vetting process with airline manifests that came into the US - it is very, very difficult. First of all, is somebody carrying a false passport? Are they who they say they are? Do they have a false document? What databases can you check? If somebody is coming from Iraq or Syria there is no databases to check. Nobody is on anybody’s radar screen... There is no way to check and see who these people really are. Are they Syrian? Are they Egyptian? Are they Palestinian? Are they Afghani? We just don’t know.

US President Barack Obama © Yuri Gripas

Can Obama keep America safe?

Former US diplomat and GOP Senate policy adviser Jim Jatras said that there is a high level of mistrust towards the Obama administration in the US regarding its capability to keep people safe in the country.

RT: Immigration is a federal matter. How can governors prevent Syrian refugees from coming in?

Jim Jatras: With a great deal of difficulty. Let’s keep in mind that a refugee in principle is not supposed to be an immigrant. He is supposed to be somebody with a well-founded fear of persecution, who will go home after the conditions are safe. But in reality they very seldom do. And I think there is a very high level of mistrust among a lot of people in America looking at the events in Europe and mistrust towards the Obama administration, whether they are really capable of keeping people in this country safe.  

Remember, we’ve had an example of the Tsarnaev brothers, the Boston bombers, who were admitted as refugees, and they didn’t turn out to be as safe as maybe we thought they were. I think that is what a lot of these governors and people in Congress are saying: they want to be on the side of safety on behalf of the American people.

RT: Given the US military role in the Iraq and Syria. Does the country have a responsibility to help people displaced by those wars?

JJ: There is a responsibility, but it doesn’t necessarily entail bringing them to the US as refugees. Remember it takes about two years for us to process the refugees in. And all this bill in Congress today does is provide for an FBI check as well as one from the Department of Homeland Security.
One would think that if the US changed its policy towards Syria and helped achieve a political settlement that a lot of the impetus for people from that country to come here will decrease. And let’s keep in mind if we’re looking at the flood of migrants in Europe – only a minority of those people are from Syria.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.