Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Looking for needles in haystacks

One of the more inevitable responses to terrorist attacks has been to talk about reintroducing border controls.  It is, it has been said, too easy for determined people to obtain weapons in one part of the EU and travel across the whole of Europe without ever being challenged, whereas with border controls, there would be more chance of stopping people sooner.  It’s a viewpoint which is not without a degree of logic, but it is far too simplistic, and I suspect that it hides a rather different motivation.
It is, of course, true that the shorter the distance between borders and checkpoints, the harder it would become for people to carry weapons and explosives from one end of the continent to the other.  But it is equally true that having border checks on every county boundary – or even every parish/community boundary – would provide even more security.  Nobody – at least, as far as I’m aware – is proposing either of those suggestions; it is only ‘state’ boundaries which some would like to see closed.
And that tells us something about the mindset of those calling for reintroduction of stronger border controls across Europe.  Whatever their motivation is, it really is not about finding the most effective way of controlling the movement of terrorists.  Some European Union members have small land masses, but others are very much larger.  Merely imposing controls on one arbitrarily selected set of lines on a map regardless of the size of the territories included within those lines doesn’t look like a targeted response to a problem.  Controlling the movement of millions to try and identify the tens doesn’t look like a terribly efficient approach either, even assuming that it could actually succeed in identifying all the ‘targets’.
So what’s it really about?  It looks like a knee-jerk reaction that ‘something must be done’ and the something that is proposed just happens to fit with the existing prejudices of those proposing it.  The concept of ‘open internal borders’ is one of the achievements of the European project, although sadly the UK chose to opt out.  Demands for the rest of Europe to follow the UK lead look more like an attempt to justify the UK’s stance than a rational response to a particular problem.
Open borders do not come without problems, of course.  But a state the size of the US manages without any internal border controls – why should they be needed in Europe?


WelshnotBritish said...

Three of the four 7/7 bombers were English as was the guy who killed Lee Rigby. The non-English born bomber was Jamaican but had lived in England since he was five. Even if they had stricter border controls they wouldn't have known a five year old child from Jamaica was going to go rogue after 14 years.

As for the recent attacks in Paris, the headline of this article from Reuters says the finger prints matched. The story then goes on to quote a prosecutor saying "At this stage, while the authenticity of a passport in the name of Ahmad al Mohammad, born Sept. 10 1990 in Idlib, Syria needs to be verified, there are similarities between the fingerprints of the suicide bomber and those taken during a control in Greece in October,"

So whilst the headline tells us he was definitely a refugee the actual article reveals they do not know. There is no hard evidence that fingerprints are unique and that relatives can share fingerprint similarities.

Yet most people wont make it passed the headline and if they do they wont realise they are being misled.

Gav said...

Likewise, as Mr Abaaoud is apparently Belgian it would make as much sense to bomb Belgium as to bomb Syria, although it's understandable that the French wouldn't want to do that.