In November 2015, an ISIS cell killed 130 and injured 368 in coordinated attacks across Paris. In order to plan the atrocity, key members of the cell—a mix of those born in Europe and those born in the Middle East, South Asia, or North Africa—used migrant routes to travel back and forth between Syria and Europe. The potential security risk that bogus asylum seekers pose in Europe was brought into focus with more urgency than ever.
It proved disturbingly simple for these ISIS members to conceal themselves among genuine refugees as, at the time, European borders were under great strain. In Africa, hundreds of thousands of people had used an increasingly lawless Libya as a gateway from which to land in Italy via the Mediterranean Sea. In the Middle East, the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria saw hundreds of thousands head to Europe via Turkey. Massive burdens were placed on Greek landing ports and neighboring Balkan countries as asylum seekers headed north. In the fall of 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders in an attempt to respond to the crisis.