On Friday, November 13, 2015, just a few hours before Paris was brutally attacked by IS-sponsored terrorists, we posted an article stating that passport-free European Union travel made possible by the Schengen Area was at risk of disintegrating due to the torrential migrations into Europe from Syria and other IS-controlled regions.
By midnight, Paris time, on that same day, a border-free Europe had become unimaginable. It happened just that quickly. And when, within 48 hours, French investigators had concluded that one of the attackers had travelled to France on a Syrian passport (through Greece and possibly two or three other EU countries) without hindrance or serious questioning, the validity of Schengen took yet another hit.
Now, European media have all but buried any long-term prospect for an unchanged Schengen. Its chief supporters in Europe vow it will still survive. But in what form?
Already, post-Paris, we have seen (1) Austria, the Netherlands, and Sweden establishing partial border checks and controls in vulnerable areas, (2) Hungary and Slovenia (front-line nations in the wave of Syrian migrations) preparing and, in some areas, putting up razor wire fences, (3) Germany and Italy clamping down border controls in high-risk areas, and (4) France calling for suspension of Schengen rules, most on a temporary basis. But if threats continue, can permanent actions be far behind?
What this means to you if you are planning to visit Europe during the Christmas holidays or after the New Year is that you must stay informed and be prepared to make adjustments to your itinerary, required documentation, and the safeguards you need to implement. Check out our article Lessons from Paris on this site. We’ll keep you posted on this issue as it evolves.
For travellers to Europe, especially those not requiring visas to any of the Schengen countries (e.g., citizens of Canada and the U.S.), Schengen has been a godsend because it has allowed hassle- and passport-free travel throughout most of the EU—an area encompassing some 400 million people. But freedom can be abused, and on November 13 and during the weeks leading up to that date, terrorists with the most evil intentions were passing through border after border, with hardly a serious question being asked of them. The horror that resulted was not what Schengen was designed for.
Are there lessons here for Canada? When the Government of Canada announced it would grant asylum to 25,000 Syrian or other Middle Eastern refugees, it did so out of a sense of compassion and generosity. That’s understandable, for Canadians are a generous people. But if some of those “refugees” successfully instill terror—perhaps in Canada, or more likely in their number one global target, the U.S.—the fallout could be ugly.
Media reports have revealed U.S. government concerns about having enclaves of hastily vetted refugees just across a relatively open and “friendly” 4,000-mile-long northern border. Americans and their political classes already have problems enough with some 12 million undocumented “illegals,” virtually all of them having penetrated the porous southern 2,000-mile border with Mexico. And, in fact, news services recently reported that Honduran authorities have arrested five Syrians who were travelling on stolen Greek passports and heading for the U.S.–Mexico border.
Ultimately, for Canadians travelling to the U.S. for day trips or for months-long vacations, heightened scrutiny at border points, more attention to documentation, evidence of consistent domicile, and established connection to Canada are all but inevitable. And so are the lengthening waiting lines.
Be prepared. Be patient. And heed all of the travel tips we and government agencies provide. Understand that freedom of travel has its price.
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