Terrorists Could Exploit Migrant Crisis in Mediterranean


Published Jul 2, 2015 4:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

Terrorists could take advantage of the EU migrant crisis independent security consultant, ESC Global Security warns.

The Estonia-headquartered organization claims that terrorist atrocities in Tunisia and Europe’s escalating migration crisis continue to elevate the risk to ships transiting the region. As such, the Mediterranean should be classified as a maritime High Risk Area

“There is a reasonable doubt that some refugees from these areas will be a threat to European security. Terrorists and fundamentalists will take advantage of the crisis if they haven’t already,” said Jaanus Rahumägi, President & CEO, ESC Global Security. 

“With thousands crossing the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East each month, the abolition of Europe’s internal frontiers will make it easier for terrorists to move across Europe undetected. But the identities of migrants can be verified before they reach land by security personnel,” he added.

However, Rahumägi dismissed calls to shift EUNAVFOR Atalanta, the European naval patrol operating in the Red Sea, to the Mediterranean in order to capture or destroy migrant ships. 

“This is not the answer. Moving Atalanta simply because the risk of Somali piracy has been reduced does not mean it has been eradicated. A separate EUNAVFOR patrol is required and the Mediterranean should be given High Risk Area status until the migrant situation has been resolved,” he said.

According to the International Organization for Migration close to 133,000 migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year. Italy leads the numbers with Greece coming in a close second.

“According to newspaper reports, there are thought to be about a million migrants looking to enter Europe across the Mediterranean from North Africa. But if merchant ships continue to go to their aide without adequate protection, then there is a significant risk to maritime security. Mediterranean shipping lanes must be protected in the same way that the merchant fleet is protected when it transits the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea,” Rahumägi said.

The European Union pledged to triple its commitment to maritime patrols following the April 19 drowning of nearly 900 migrants. However, commercial operators in the region have consistently rendered aid to Mediterranean migrants throughout 2015. Denmark's Maersk Line, the world's largest container shipping company, recently said it had conducted six rescues so far this year in the Mediterranean involving over 2,200 refugees. Another unit of the company, Maersk Tankers, likewise commented it had rescued another 750 people so far this year.

“If we are to mitigate the security risks associated with this humanitarian crisis, Brussels, the maritime administrations and the security services must work in concert,” Rahumägi added.

Rahumägi’s comments coincided with a joint statement issued last week by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu and IOM Director-General William L. Swing agreed to establish an inter-agency platform to disseminate information, highlight the dangers of and find a solution to the unsafe and irregular migration by sea. 

The IMO and IOM urged the international community to take robust measures against people smugglers “who operate without fear or remorse and who deliberately and knowingly endanger the lives of thousands of migrants at sea.”

The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.