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Paris terror and the migrant crisis tear at Europe’s open borders

How to deal with hundreds of thousands of migrants, many fleeing from Syria? It's a question that was already tearing at the fabric of Europe before the attacks in Paris, with different countries taking very different stances. But after Friday night, the very idea of Europe's open borders is under threat. Hari Sreenivasan reports from Paris.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    The hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Europe have made headlines for months. But in the wake of the Paris attacks, there are new questions about how they have been able to make their journey.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Again to Hari Sreenivasan in Paris. The question was already tearing at the fabric of Europe: how to deal with hundreds of thousands of people, many fleeing from Syria. Now the Paris attacks claimed by the Islamic State have some politicians demanding change. JOELLE GARRIAUD-MAYLAM, French Senator: I have been saying for months that these refugees have been infiltrated. I was always told that all the checks had been made and that it was totally safe, but I was sure something like that would happen. We met Senator Joelle Garriaud-Maylam along the Champs Elysees. Among her official roles, she is on France's Defense Committee. JOELLE GARRIAUD-MAYLAM: I know many people who've come from Belgium, or, you know, Spain, who haven't had the slightest control, and who know very well that there's weapons trafficking, which is extremely dangerous.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    That kind of sentiment is increasingly putting refugees on the defensive.

  • MAN:

    They are not Islam. And they don't know the God, never, believe me. God, he didn't say to Islam to kill the people. It's not Islam, not our Islam.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Top European and U.N. officials support that view, warning that public fury against the Islamic State, or Da'esh in Arabic, shouldn't be misdirected.

  • MAN:

    I think that the strategy of Da'esh is exactly to create an environment of fear, to make European countries close their borders to Syrian refugees and also to divide our societies.

    THORBJORN JAGLAND, Secretary-General, Council of Europe: We cannot blame the refugees for this, because they are actually fleeing away from terrorism.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For his part, French President Francois Hollande said today his country will stick with a plan to take in 30,000 refugees over the next two years.

  • PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, France (through interpreter):

    However, our duty of showing humanity in regards to refugees goes hand in hand with the protection duty of all French people. France must check before people get inside the European territory and then on French soil that there are no risks for our country.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    But other European leaders take much harder stances. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had put up border fences and condemned the flow of Muslim migrants even before Paris, and now:

  • VIKTOR ORBAN, Hungarian Prime Minister (through interpreter):

    It has been proven that the terrorists use the mass migration to blend in among the masses of people who have left their homes in the hope of a better life. We don't think that everyone who comes from there is a terrorist, but even one terrorist is too many.

    It's bad even to think about how many terrorists may have gone through the territory of our country. Time to stop this happening across Europe.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    For the past 20 years, people have been able to move freely across 26 countries through what's known as the Schengen agreement. After Friday night's attacks, that very idea of an open Europe is under threat.

    Is this the end of Schengen as we know it?

  • FRANCOIS GERE, Executive Director, French Strategic Analysis Institute:

    Probably, very likely. It's the end probably of a number of things, including the way the E.U. operates and the way the E.U. sees itself and its future.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Francois Gere is executive director of the French Strategic Analysis Institute. He studies conflicts and terrorism. Gere is sympathetic to the plight of the migrants, but, to him, the sheer numbers pose a problem.

  • FRANCOIS GERE:

    For instance, 1,000 migrants, you have 0.1 terrorists, well, it's enough to have — to create a cell for any kind of aggression.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Those likely to feel any changes to border controls first are frequent travelers, like Stephan Viallet, whom we met at the Gare du Nord train station on his weekly trip to Belgium without the need for a passport.

  • STEPHAN VIALLET, Traveler:

    We're at a point where we need to do something that's radically different from what we currently experience. Otherwise, we can't control, and in the case of events like this one, we're completely lost.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    The attacks have forced some travelers to let the scales tip toward security.

  • MAN:

    We lose a lot of the peace of liberty, but we win maybe another liberty, another freedom. You see what I mean?

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Others are hesitant.

  • WOMAN (through interpreter):

    The point is, we shouldn't give up our rights that we fought for, the liberty of moving.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And even more fuel in the debate came just today in Turkey. Authorities detained eight people at Istanbul's main airport, and said they were suspected Islamic State militants, planning to make their way to Germany, posing as refugees.

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