France/Turkey – French investigators probing the 2015 Paris attacks have asked Turkey to hand over a detainee suspected of helping the jihadists with logistics, sources close to the case said on the 7 Nov 17. Ahmed Dahmani, a 28-year-old Belgian-Moroccan, is an associate of Salah Abdeslam, the only prime suspect still alive after the Islamic State group attacks that left 130 people dead. French investigators issued an international arrest warrant on May 23 for Dahmani, jailed in Turkey on jihadism charges, sources said. Dahmani has a history of petty crime and hails from Molenbeek, a Brussels neighbourhood that was home to several of the jihadists behind the Paris attacks and Mar 16 Brussels bombings. Mohamed Abrini, a failed Brussels bomber who is now in detention in Belgium, described Dahmani as a childhood friend. A source said a document found at Dahmani's home, during a search two months before the Paris attacks in connection with a stolen car, contained details of the French shop where Abdeslam bought products to make explosives. Extremist propaganda was also found at his home. Dahmani travelled to Turkey from Amsterdam on the 15 Nov 15, the morning after the attacks targeting the Bataclan concert venue, the State de France stadium and Paris nightspots. French authorities placed him under electronic surveillance. A week after his arrival in Turkey, Dahmani was arrested with two people smugglers who were attempting to take him to Syria. All three were sentenced last year to 10 years and nine months in jail for belonging to a terrorist group and for forgery. Phone records confirmed that Dahmani and Abdeslam had been in contact hundreds of times. Abdeslam was also stopped by police while trying to board a ferry from Greece to Italy with Dahmani in Aug 15, three months before the Paris attacks. Investigators believe Abdeslam, who is in detention in France, helped around a dozen jihadists enter Europe via Greece posing as migrants. Abdeslam refuses to speak to investigators, who have charged or are seeking around 15 other suspects as part of the sprawling probe into the deadliest attack in French history.
Germany/Migrants – The German government has admitted that it does not always know the whereabouts of rejected asylum seekers, but argues that the number doesn't tell the whole truth. The government's asylum agency faces a file backlog. Around 30,000 rejected asylum seekers have simply disappeared from Germany's records, a German newspaper has claimed, though the government and refugee organizations call the statistical analysis inaccurate and "ridiculous." According to a report on the 2 Nov 17 mass-circulation daily Bild, the government's Central Register of Foreign Nationals (AZR) counted around 54,000 people at the end of 2016 who were obligated to leave the country, but only around 23,000 were claiming state benefits in accordance with the law governing asylum applicants, according to numbers from the Federal Statistical Office. An Interior Ministry spokesman told Bild, "It can't be ruled out that individuals obligated to leave the country documented in the foreign nationals register have already left the country or have disappeared without the relevant foreign nationals authority having been made aware of it, or reporting the fact to the AZR." But in response to the Bild report, another Interior Ministry spokesman told DW that the paper's calculations were based on various false assumptions. "The article fundamentally misunderstands the basic premise that only around 49 percent of all foreign nationals registered in the AZR as obliged to leave are people whose asylum applications have been refused," the spokesman said in an email. "Apart from rejected asylum seekers, people with expired visas are also often obligated to leave." The ministry also said Bild was comparing numbers that had no statistical connection: "Neither all those obliged to leave, nor the group of rejected asylum seekers are entitled to asylum seeker benefits," the spokesman added.
Bernd Mesovic, director of legal policy at refugees' rights organization Pro Asyl, said it was ridiculous of Bild to claim that these figures were new or in any way surprising. "This is an ancient story," he said. "The fact is that one can assume that a lot of people in the AZR have long since left. Just because they're not there doesn't mean they've 'gone underground.' In our experience many people move on at the beginning of the procedure." "There are no checks on who has left, unless they're considered dangerous," Mesovic added. "People can leave Germany whenever they want, and many don't register with the authorities when they do." He also pointed out that many immigrants arrive in Germany and simply tell authorities that they have relatives elsewhere in Europe and then travel there of their own accord. "I know cases of people who say, 'I'm sick of waiting in Germany; I'm going back to my country of origin,'" Mesovic said. "There are people who even voluntarily go back to Syria or Afghanistan. They're not obliged (to tell authorities they're going anywhere), and it's hard to check."
Long processing times
This same week, regional newspaper Nürnberger Nachrichten reported that Germany's central immigration authority, BAMF, is once again struggling to process asylum applications. Citing an internal BAMF document from mid-October, the newspaper said that while BAMF had been processing around 50,000 cases a month at the beginning of the year, its rate had recently slowed to 15,000-18,000 a month. New cases were now taking up to two months to process, while in Jan 17 decisions were being made in around 10 days. The document said BAMF was currently aiming to process another 15,000 asylum applications a month by the end of the year. But the authority is facing a backlog of applications. At the end of 2016 some 430,000 applications had remained untouched. Today, 52,000 old applications are still being processed, some from as far back as 2015. The current target to deal with new applications is three months.
Despite the ongoing media interest in asylum seekers and immigration procedures, the German government is reducing the number of BAMF personnel: while the agency was employing some 10,000 officials at one point earlier this year, this dipped to 7,800 by Sep 17 around half of them on temporary contracts, the regional paper reported. Similarly, BAMF is currently failing to meet its integration course targets. By Sep 17 it had only managed to bring 28,000 asylum seekers onto integration language courses, well below its target of 56,000. While 3,000 people finished the course successfully in September, some 3,000 did not, and a further 9,000 were categorized as "inactive," having not attended class for nine months. At the same time, the BAMF document showed it is taking longer for accepted asylum seekers to be given access to a course. On average, it now takes successful asylum seekers 15.2 weeks to be admitted to an integration course after they have received a registration notification, while in January that figure was just 11.7 weeks.
Italy/Jihadi Drugs – Italy seized more than 24 million tablets of a synthetic opiate that Islamic State militants planned to sell to finance attacks around the world, the head of a southern Italian court said on the 3 Nov 17. The pills were seized by finance police and customs officials in the container port of Gioia Tauro, Italy's biggest, according to a statement. The US Drug Enforcement Administration collaborated in the investigation. A video shows police opening a container filled with boxes of Tramadol, a powerful painkiller normally available only on prescription. With an average sale price of about 2 Euros ($2.33) per tablet, the haul was worth 50 million Euros, the statement said. Foreign investigators told the court in the city of Reggio Calabria that the drugs belonged to Islamic State. The drugs sales were "managed directly by Islamic State to finance the terrorist activities planned and carried out around the world", Reggio Calabria's chief prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho said. "Part of the illegal profit from their sale would have been used to finance extremist groups in Libya, Syria and Iraq," he said. No details on how the illegal shipment was discovered or on its final destination were provided by the court. A similar shipment was discovered in Greece last year, and an even larger one was found in Italy's Genoa port in May.
Italy/Jihadi Drug – Italian finance police seized a massive hoard of drugs in the southern port of Gioia Tauro which investigators suspect was part of a trafficking ring used by ISIS to finance terrorist activities. Initially, the so called “Jihad Pill” or “ISIS drug” or even “chemical courage” was sold under the brand name Captagon: a psychostimulant that, without going into too technical details, is a kind of amphetamine, with milder effects, used for over 25 years to treat sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, and depression. Captagon takes away the fatigue, and keeps users awake, happy if not euphoric for a long time it was reported on the 4 Nov 17. As it turned out to be highly addictive – this stimulant became illegal in most countries in 1986 and used as a recreational drug in the Middle East. Price: $5 a pill. The reason leading to dub it the “fighter drug”, is that the Captagon amphetamines were found in the hotel room near Paris, temporary home of the Jihadists responsible for the November 2015 Paris attack that killed 130 people. However, the 24 million pills seized by the Italian finance police and customs officials on the 3 Nov 17 in the port of the southern region of Calabria, Gioia Tauro, Italy was not Captagon, but Tramadol. Unlike Captagon, Tramadol is an opioid painkiller used to treat moderate to severe pain. Since it is a pain medication it is not illegal, and cheaper compared to Captagon, as the price drops to $2 a pill in Libya. Official say that the massive hoard of drugs was coming from India, where it is produced at very low cost, and was headed to Libya. According to American sources of intelligence, “the narcotic drug was intended for ISIS terrorists or to finance their activities” While the finance police in charge of the operation understand “that in Libya, every tablet is sold for 2 dollars. They are used by fighters, terrorists, but not only.” What is certain is that its use has been repeatedly found in Middle Eastern war scenarios. In this particular case, as the cargo was leading to Misurata, one of the cities once occupied by the Jihadists in Libya, there are clues that this type of drug, the Opioid Tramadol was actually intended mainly for those thousands of desperate migrants in north Africa as, being it a painkiller pill, and not an amphetamine, it would have done its job: to take the pain away. In fact, according to the finance police “To have an effect, you need to take 4 or 5 per day” as well as “These pills can also be used as barter goods”. One thing is for sure, this traffic is in the hands of the Jihadists, and these pills serve ISIS double as they are either used by the terrorists themselves, or sold in the North-African and Middle-Eastern areas, in yet another way to fund the so called Da’esh. The estimated sale of the 24 million Tramadol-based pills would have generated around 70 million Euros. And another thing that is equally sure is that the illegal trafficking passes through the Italian transshipment hub of Gioia Tauro, the largest port in Italy for container throughput, but also the main entry point for Europe’s cocaine: 80% of which comes from Colombia via Gioia Tauro docks. The port of Gioia Tauro is notoriously under the control of the Calabrian organized crime group ’Ndrangheta.