The EU has begun to send counterterrorism agents to various reception hotspots for migrants in Italy and Greece. Their aim consists in identifying, and neutralizing if necessary, jihadi fighters. The operation, coordinated by the European Centre against Terrorism (ECTC) established by the EU earlier this year, will reach full effectiveness after summer, involving dozens of agents. Colonel Manuel Navarrete, ECTC Chief, announced it in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais.
The goal of the Europol specialists, the so-called ‘guest officers’, is to help the authorities of the two countries “to identify possible terrorists. Having the opportunity to exploit the present flow of thousands of refugees, these people might hide among them and enter into Europe. The risk is real and it is a new concept we are developing.”
The ‘guest officers” come from various member countries. Europol has trained them for a certain period to carry out this specific role. “Navarrete, a Civil Defense colonel, is a veteran of the fight against ETA terrorism and Basque separatists. He also has extensive experience in fighting terrorism in Africa, especially in North Africa. The first point – the director of the European center insists – is the Intelligence, because “people who at risk of radicalization or joining terrorist groups lead many of their activities in virtual situations on the Internet. Many of them have criminal records “and we have to find out how and when they go to countries like Syria.
According to estimations, there are between 3 and 5 thousand people, explains Emanuele Riccardi Ansamed – and the creation of the PNR, a register of air passengers’ names, can be of great help. The threat is stronger now due to “the decision of the Islamic State to send terrorists from Syria and Iraq to strike Europe. Coordination with Frontex (the agency in charge of the EU’s external borders) is of crucial importance.” The role of the ‘guest officers’ is not only to identify potential Islamic terrorists. “It is important – Navarrete explains – to dismantle illegal immigration networks, which can let terrorists in at any price. Fighting against irregular immigration networks we participate in the war against human trafficking and touch upon the issue of security, which is very important to everyone.”
The goal of ECTC is anticipating possible attacks, such as the ones carried out on 13 November in Paris and on 22 March in Brussels. “All the countries – said the colonel of the Civil Guard – have adapted their systems to this type of threat, which is more lethal and unpredictable. Now more than ever “there is awareness of the fact that it is necessary to share information, not just swap it. The European Centre has “information about other crimes, such as arms trafficking and financial crimes, which can be associated with terrorism. We have the Schengen Information System and Europol’s visa system”.