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Spain fears jihadists may enter country alongside asylum seekers

Source: El Pais - Wed 9th Sep 2015
Spain fears jihadists may enter country alongside asylum seekers

Radical militant group Islamic State (ISIS) is planning to use refugee flows to "infiltrate" Europe, according to Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernández. As such, Spain is on alert to "take the appropriate measures" if fears are confirmed that jihadist terrorists could slip into the country posing as asylum seekers, he explained on Tuesday.

Speaking at an international conference on violence against minorities in the Middle East, Fernández explained that Spanish authorities are concerned following the theft of 1,452 blank passports in Turkey.

Brussels is asking Spain to take in 15,000 refugees fleeing conflict areas, particularly Syria. But PM Mariano Rajoy is yet to confirm exactly how many the country will take in, claiming it is necessary to wait until after a meeting of European ministers on September 14.

Fernández stated on Tuesday that Spain will not set limits or create hurdles to the admission of as many asylum seekers as the European Commission considers necessary. But the minister added that he wants to keep tabs on who is entering the country for reasons of national security. At the Paris conference, Fernández said that those future transfers of new refugees should follow "a common procedure" throughout all the member states.

The Spanish embassy in Turkey has alerted authorities to the theft of 1,452 Syrian passports from offices in the provinces of Rakka and Deir ez Zur. The police suspect the documents may have been sold on the black market at a price of around $2,500 each. After noting that European countries have yet to build "hotspots," or migrant reception centers, Fernández admitted that "reality moves faster than our response capacity." Spain has asked for a €7-million credit line to beef up the agency that handles asylum claims, which is already overwhelmed by the number of applications.

Spanish anti-terrorist agencies have detected significant jihadist recruitment activities in recent years, and have broken up several rings that were trying to send individuals to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Authorities are particularly concerned about combatants who make their way back to Spain, because of their training in combat and explosives.

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