Visa deal with Turkey 'hikes risk of terror attacks on EU'
Published 18/05/2016 | 02:30
Terrorists are more likely to attack European countries as a result of a controversial deal to allow Turkish citizens to travel across the continent without visas, EU leaders have admitted.
Foreign terrorists and organised criminals are "expected" to seek Turkish passports to reach continental Europe "as soon as" the visa waiver programme comes into force, a European Commission report said.
The disclosure came as Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, warned that the decision to give Turkey visa-free travel is "perverse" and compared it to "storing gasoline next to the fire".
Mr Dearlove also said that the EU will face "a populist uprising" if it cannot show it can gain control of the migratory crisis.
Turkey's 75 million citizens will have the right to enter the Schengen zone for up to 90 days at a time with biometric passports from the end of June if Ankara passes key anti-corruption and terrorism reforms.
The decision was part of a hastily assembled deal brokered by Brussels to halt the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece.
However, the European Commission report acknowledges the "increased mobility into the Schengen area of criminals and terrorists who are citizens of Turkey, or who are foreigners based in Turkey".
The European Commission has recently also proposed visa-free travel deals with Kosovo, Ukraine and Georgia, which are blighted by organised crime.
"The proposed visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens travelling to the EU could potentially have an impact on the terrorist risk in the EU in as far as the movement of terrorists of Turkish citizenship to and from the Schengen area is concerned," the report states.
The fingerprints of people entering Europe with a visa are logged on a single database that can be searched by counter-terrorism investigators, an extra level of security that is removed by the deal.
Kosovo has produced up to 300 fighters in Syria and Iraq, the highest per capita rate in Europe, a separate report warns, adding that the government is poorly equipped to intercept them.
"Visa liberalisation could also have an impact on undetected entry into the EU of persons from Kosovo who return from war zones where they had joined terrorist networks," the report says.
Kosovo is also a route for the smuggling of reactivated firearms, millions of which are left over from the Balkans wars, into Europe.
The Turkish mafia, which traffics huge volumes of drugs, sex slaves, illegal firearms and refugees into Europe, may undergo "direct territorial expansion towards the EU" as a result of the deal, the report says.
"Suspect individuals being allowed to travel to the Schengen territory without the need to go through a visa request procedure would have a greater ability to enter the EU without being noticed."
It says reforms to the Turkish police, judiciary and counter-terrorism apparatus that are a pre-condition of the visa deal will help "mitigate" the risk.
Fraud Turkey has agreed to provide training and "ethical codes on anti-corruption" for staff issuing passports and citizenship papers.
"It can be expected that, as soon as Turkish citizens will obtain visa-free entry to the EU, foreign nationals will start trying to obtain Turkish passports in order to pretend to be Turkish citizens and enter the EU visa free, or use the identities of Turkish citizens, or to obtain by fraud Turkish citizenship," the report says.
"This possibility may attract not only irregular migrants, but also criminals or terrorists." (© Daily Telegraph, London)