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VisasFive European countries face removal from Visa Waiver program
DHS has told five countries – France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Greece – that they have until Monday, 1 February, to fix a security flaw – DHS described it as a “crucial loopholes”— in their passport stems. If they fail to do so, they will be removed from the Visa Waiver program. The move will affect millions of European citizens.
DHS has told five countries – France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and Greece – that they have until Monday, 1 February, to fix a security flaw – DHS described it as a “crucial loopholes”— in their passport stems. If they fail to do so, they will be removed from the Visa Waiver program, Politico reports.
The move will affect millions of European citizens.
DHS has issued the ultimatum as American security officials have become increasingly concerned at the proliferation of fake passports which terrorists may use.
The Visa Waiver program allows citizens of thirty-eight countries to enter the United States for ninety days – for tourism or business — without a visa.
Following the 13 November terrorist attacks in Paris, the White House said it would more thoroughly examine the security aspects of the program, with the panel doing the review reporting directly to President Obama. In announcing the examination, the White House said that some states participating in the program are “deficient in key areas of cooperation” [read: security cooperation with the United States] and that, as a result, they face having their access to the Visa Waiver program revoked.
“At this time, no determination has been made on changing the status of any current visa waiver program partner country,” said S. Y. Lee, a DHS spokesman.
The Telegraph reports that one of the issues the review is looking at is incorporating biometric checks into the program to increase security.
European security agencies say that know of more than thirty-four million lost or stolen European travel documents, but the true number is likely to be far higher.
Greece, regarded as the weakest link in the European security system, has admitted that 5 to 7 percent of its passports could have been produced with the help of forged identity paperwork. Greece is already facing an expulsion from the Schengen free-travel zone because of its porous borders and lackadaisical approach to security.
The Telegraph notes that this latest development is an indication of the ripple effect of the European migration crisis. Earlier this week, the newspaper disclosed that British intelligence agencies have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of efforts by ISIS to smuggle terrorists into Europe in the guise of refugees.
The intelligence agencies say that fake Syrian or Iraqi passports are now so sophisticated that it is almost impossible to distinguish between genuine refugees and terror suspects.
A senior British intelligence official told the Telegraph: “Islamic State is skillfully exploiting the migrant crisis to smuggle terror cells from Syria into major European countries such as the U.K.. Jihadis travel to Raqqa to meet up with commanders, where they receive training and new passports.
“They then make their way back to Europe posing as migrants with new identities, making it virtually impossible for security officials to detect potential terrorists among those fleeing persecution.”
ISIS has gained control of thousands of blank Syrian passports, as well as printing machines, during its takeover of government buildings. Fake Syrian passports are also easily available in Turkey for those attempting to travel to Greece.
“Daesh [ISIS] has managed to seize passports in Iraq, Syria and Libya and to set up a true industry of fake passports,” Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, said this week.