Germany searching for migrants who 'entered Germany using same passports as Paris attackers'
Search for migrants using stolen passports reportedly under way as official figures show migration to Europe in 2015 surpasses US record for European migrants set back in 1907
German authorities are reportedly searching for 12 people who entered the country illegally as refugees using fake Syrian passports and then disappeared.
The migrants are believed to have entered Germany using stolen passports from the same source as those used by two of the Paris attackers, Bild newspaper claimed.
The passports are believed to have been looted by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) when it captured the city of Raqqa in 2013.
The report comes a week after two men were arrested at a refugee shelter in Austria on suspicion of links to the Paris attacks. They had reportedly entered Austria using false Syrian passports at the same time as the Paris attackers.
The authorities have since lost track of the 12 migrants – who entered before the Paris attacks - because of serious shortcomings with the process for registering refugees.
Some 250,000 unregistered asylum-seekers are believed to be in the country because of a system that allows them to enter without registering.
Asylum-seekers are expected to register after their arrival in the country, but overburdened refugee offices mean many are left waiting for weeks or have to be taken hundreds of miles by bus to be registered in different cities.
Thousands are disappearing after entering the country and never registering. Border officials do not even take fingerprints of arriving asylum-seekers, it has emerged.
Those who do not register have no entitlement to benefits, but there are concerns they may be disappearing into the black economy or other criminal activities.
“Nationwide we’re seeing a loss of around 30 per cent of the refugees,” an unnamed government official told Bild. “We don’t have the exact numbers. We don’t even know if they’re still in Germany.”
The wave of migrants entering Europe has now topped one million people in 2015, according to newly released statistics – eclipsing even the record year for European migration into the United States more than a century ago.
The total number of migrants to Europe for 2015 passed 1,005,504 this week, according to figures released by the International Organisation for Migration on Tuesday – a number that surpassed the record 1,004,756 European migrants who enter the United States in 1907.
European migration to the US peaked in the first decade of the 20th century, when a total of 8.8 million migrants arrived in the country, the large majority from Italy, Poland and Germany.
Records collected from Ellis Island in New York show that the numbers peaked in 1907, when more than a million arrived, a figure that nearly halved the following year after Theodore Roosevelt passed his 1907 Immigration Act placing restrictions on migrants who would be admitted to the US.
The announcement confirmed that Europe is now facing the highest levels of migration for nearly half a century, with officials already predicting that 2016 figures could exceed this year unless there is a fundamental change on the ground in Syria.
The vast majority of the new arrivals – some 970,000 – entered Europe after crossing the Mediterranean and landing in Greece and Italy from where they travelled north, predominantly to Germany and Sweden.
William Lacy Swing, the director-general of the IOM, announced the figures on the day that 11 migrants, including three children, drowned off the Turkish coast on Tuesday as they tried to reach Greece – bringing the total number of deaths for the year to 3,692.
Mr Swing called on European governments to do more to avoid the deaths by opening up controlled migration routes, saying that migration was “inevitable, necessary and desirable".
He added: “Migration must be legal, safe and secure for all - both for the migrants themselves and the countries that will become their new home.”
The migration crisis has impacted politics on both sides of the Atlantic, with hard-line rhetoric coming from Viktor Orban, the Hungarian leader, and Donald Trump, the controversial Republican candidate who suggested a ban on all Muslims entering the United States.
Antonio Guterres, UN high commissioner for refugees, said that such anti-Muslim rhetoric would only fuel an Isil recruitment drive, ultimately deepening the refugee crisis.
“Those that reject Syrian refugees, and especially if they are Muslim, are the best allies of the propaganda and the recruitment of extremist groups,” Mr Guterres told the UN Security Council, in an apparent swipe at Mr Trump and some US state governors and European leaders.