Peter S. Vincent, a seasoned veteran of US Homeland Security with National Security top clearance and a member of Henley & Partners Executive Committee provides a bleak picture of European borders which he says constitute a great threat to EU security. Organised crime groups routinely engage in the sophisticated forgery of identity papers, as well as terrorists and all kinds of criminals frequently obtain legitimate documents through the corruption of civil servants.
Vincent states that during his time at the Department of Homeland Security, they were well-tuned into the existence of international criminal organisations which specialised in forging extremely authentic but fraudulent documents enabling people to hide their true identities. These included voter registration documents, birth certificates and driver’s licences on legitimate and authentic paper containing all appropriate security features and watermarks.
Vincent says, “I’ve seen reports that individuals are able to obtain legitimate passports in Romania or Bulgaria for as little as €5,000. Other reports suggest that individuals are able to purchase legitimate passports for €30,000.”
Nearly one million individuals become naturalised EU citizens annually. Whilst most of them are legitimate migrants who present zero threat to security, even if just a tiny proportion of them are dangerous, it is still hundreds or even thousands of individuals with the potential to cause severe damage.
Vincent notes that “one individual who’s able to enter the United States or Europe, who is a terrorist, and who hurts people by blowing himself or herself up is, obviously, a tragedy. That is why so many resources go into identifying that small, very small, but very lethal, percentage of true threats.”
Aside from those who immigrate illegally, the gravest security concerns relate to those who enter by corrupt or fraudulent means. Individuals who enter through legitimate ancestry programs also present a significant risk due to the sheer volume of people and the very small amount of background checks to which they are subjected.
Vincent cautions that for those claiming citizenship on an ancestral basis, the process for vetting or engaging in due diligence “has never been extraordinarily rigorous or disciplined.” With this said, there are thousands of citizens who come from Spain and Italians from Brazil and Argentina annually for whom there is little information on their ancestral legitimacy, as well as their true identities.
In the meantime, the European Commission has set its focus on resources and perceived deficiencies in the due diligence performed on the 0.1% of new citizens entering through citizenship by investment (CBI) programs.
There are several reasons, however, why CBI is not a security threat to Europe and could in fact be the least risky. These include the fact that no citizen’s background is scrutinised as thoroughly as those that participate in a CIP; there are many far easier and more dangerous ways for dangerous people to access the EU; citizenships can and have been revoked and it is in the interest of CIP countries to keep the bad people out.
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