EXCLUSIVE – The cheater’s guide to getting into Europe: Border guard exposes tricks migrants try to use to sneak past checks
- EU border guard tells MailOnline about the challenges they face in Lesbos
- Migrants pay smugglers for questions they are expected to get at border
- Single men attach themselves to genuine families in bid to slip through
- Some migrants from the Caribbean have even claimed to be Syrian
- One in five migrants smuggled into Greece lie about their nationality
An EU border guard today revealed the extraordinary lengths migrants are going to in their attempt to claim asylum – and said as many as one in five are lying.
In an interview with the MailOnline, Anna Smigielska said new arrivals are coming to border posts armed with a series of tricks and lies to con officials into letting them into Europe.
Many also provide fake documents to claim they are from Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq rather than their real homeland.
Miss Smigielska, whose job is to interview migrants to identify their nationality, gave an revealing insight into the challenge facing staff dealing with new arrivals in Lesbos on smuggling boats from Turkey.
She told how wealthier migrants pay smugglers in Turkey extra cash for a bespoke service to prep them for questions they are expected to face at the border to determine their nationality.
Single men attach themselves to genuine refugee families and pose as brothers or husbands to try to dupe guards, while others copy answers given by refugees ahead of them in the queue.
In some extraordinary cases, migrants from the Caribbean have travelled into Europe via Turkey – and then claimed to be Syrian.
Many are caught out because they are unable to name the leader of the country they claim to be from, or even recognise its currency or say which school they attended.
Miss Smigielska said around one in five migrants smuggled into Greece lie about their nationality in an apparent attempt to claim asylum in the EU.
The number claiming false nationalities has increased in recent months as border controls tighten in Europe and it is far harder for those without asylum to move country.
Frontex, the European border agency, has a team screeners and forgery experts working 24 hours a day on the Greek islands to intercept those lying about their country of origin.
Assisted by an interpreter, Miss Smigielska interviews migrants at the Moira camp in Lesbos hours after they land on the island following a perilous crossing from Turkey.
Migrants disembark from a Turkish coastguard boat after a failed attempt crossing to the Greek island of Lesbos from the Turkish coastal town of Dikili
A Pakistani migrant climbs an electricity pole during a demonstration inside the Moria registration centre on the Greek island of Lesbos on Wednesday.
She said: ‘I usually start with simple questions – what city are you from, who is the president, what is the currency?
‘Sometimes people don’t even know the answers to these, or they get nervous and I suspect something is amiss.
‘But questions must be tailored to each migrant as some have very little education and don’t even know basic things about the political situation in their country.
‘The numbers vary, but if we see 100 migrants on a shift usually about 20 would claim a false nationality.
‘When I was first in Lesbos last year people claiming false nationalities was not nearly such a big issue.
‘But it has got far more widespread as border controls in Europe get stricter and there is less movement available for non-refugees.’
Frontex said it did not have exact figures on those who give false nationality but estimated the figure was between 10 to 15 per cent of new arrivals.
Migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan protest against deportations in the hotspot refugee camp, formerly a detention centre, in Moria, Lesbos
Scores of migrants are being returned to Turkey following an EU agreement with the Turkish authorities to tackle Europe’s worsening mass migration crisis.
The screening process is made tougher by smugglers offering a club class service to help migrants prepare for interviews with border staff.
‘Sometimes they are very well informed, but there are usually details that give them away in the end,’ Miss Smigielska said.
‘Their accent may be wrong, and if you keep asking questions eventually there will be holes in their information and they will admit they are not from where they are claiming to be.
‘I asked one migrant who admitted lying how he knew so much about Syria despite never having been there.
‘He showed me his phone and had emails full of details about Syria and details about the kind of things we might ask. A smuggler had provided him with it, but he had to pay extra for it.’
The sophisticated smuggler schemes means border guards keep having to change their questions.
In some cases migrants have demanded to be tested on pictures of banknotes from the country they claim to be from, as they have revised them in advance knowing it is common question by screeners to establish nationality.
Other migrants waiting to be interviewed sometimes ask a refugee family ahead of them in the queue details about the town they come from, and then give exactly the same information when they are questioned by the border guard.
A Police officer closes the gate of Moria camp as refugees behind her protest against the EU- Turkey deal.
‘This is usually easy to detect because they might give the name of a city in Syria, but they won’t know any street names or landmarks in it,’ Miss Smigielska said.
Others abandon plans to give false nationality when they see how thorough the screening is.
‘You might get a group of 20 Moroccans and the first five in the queue will claim to be from Syria.
‘But after they are all found out the others don’t bother trying as they know it won’t work.’
‘Single males also sometimes try to join Syrian families and pretend they are with them.
‘While waiting they will offer to help a woman with young children who is travelling without her husband.
‘In return, he asks for the woman to say that he is her brother or husband.
‘But when you see them for questioning it’s clear from the body language that they are not related or a couple.’
In one case, a man from Haiti in the Caribbean arrived claiming he was from Syria.
‘We kept saying you don’t speak Arabic and frankly you don’t look like you are from Syria, but he kept insisting he was.
‘Finally, we said, “you really have to say you are from somewhere other than Syria.’ He replied:’ OK, I’m from Afghanistan”.
‘Only after a long time did he admit to being from Haiti.’
Migrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan protest against deportations in the hotspot refugee camp, formerly a detention centre, in Moria, Lesbos. Migrants who refuse to apply for asylum are to be deported to Turkey, in accordance with a tit-for-tat agreement between European Union and Turkey on the refugee crisis.
Most of those claiming false nationality name somewhere where they have a plausible chance of being believed.
North Africans from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria claim they are from Syria because they are Arabic speakers.
Many Iranians and Pakistanis also claim they are from Afghanistan.
Ms Smigielska, 35, was seconded to Lesbos from the investigations unit of the Polish border control where she specialises in human trafficking.
She is part of a Frontex team of 32 screeners, 19 interpreters, and 66 fingerprinting officers on Lesbos.
The screeners also have six document experts to check passports, identity cards, drivers licences and other id cards for possible forgeries,
They have special scanners to screen for security features, but often can tell just by handling them that they are fake because they are printed on the wrong paper or have basic errors.
To add to the confusion, some Syrians arrive with false Syrian ID papers because they believed it is better to have some documentation even if they were false or one family member has real documents and the rest fakes, because they did not have time or were not allowed to apply for genuine papers.
Most of those arriving on the Greek islands are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, but many also from Pakistan and from far afield as Uganda and the Dominican Republic, Miss Smigielska said.
She said: ‘There are fewer people coming on this route from Turkey but I do not think it will stop them trying to try to find another route.
‘Most of them are really determined to come here, no matter what.’