Friday’s mass murder atrocity in Paris, the second terrorist outrage there this year, has major implications for travel and tourism.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) is advising Australians to “reconsider their need to travel to Paris and the Ile de France area until the situation has stabilised”.
Although DFAT described its move as “ a precautionary measure”, France has declared a state of emergency and is now checking documents of everyone entering its borders.
Greek police have confirmed that at least one of the men being sought in connection with the Paris attack had entered Greece earlier this year among the seemingly endless wave of migrants and refugees walking or sailing into Europe.
In Friday’s attack, three teams of murderers killed 129 people and wounded 359 others.
Feeling is growing that “borderless travel” among the European countries that signed the Schengen Convention may not survive.
The Schengen Convention is a vital European travel agreement, dating from the 1980s, which greatly eases touring Europe for visitors, including Australians. It grants visa-free travel around the “Schengen area” of Europe to tourists planning to spend less than a total of 90 days there within a 180-day period.
After the latest Paris bloodbath, carried out by Muslim fanatics and claimed by terror group ISIS, France has imposed full border controls on all its land frontiers. All travellers entering from Schengen countries by road or rail must now produce passports or ID cards.
In Paris itself, the Eiffel Tower has been closed and security on all forms of transport is being stepped up. Tens of thousands of tourists and business travellers are reportedly leaving the city. Paris is the most popular city in the world with international travellers – more than 15 million people visit it each year.
Even in such troubled times, Parisians have been using the hashtag #porteouverte to offer their homes as shelter during attacks.
Eurostar train services through the Channel between Paris Gare du Nord and London St Pancras were operating normally yesterday, though passengers were advised to check in an hour before departure, instead of the usual 30 minutes. Random searches of passengers may be conducted. Cross-channel rail and road services have been slowed in recent months by hordes of migrants milling around the French side trying to enter Britain.
Trains are under scrutiny because an Islamic extremist was overpowered and arrested in August before he could massacre passengers on a French high-speed train. He was found to have drifted around various Schengen countries, taking advantage of borderless travel to spend time in Spain, Brussels, Cologne and Vienna before staging his attack in Belgium.
Air France said yesterday flights to Paris would operate as normally as possible, but warned: “Departure and arrival delays are to be expected following the reinforcement of controls at the borders by the authorities.” Some airlines are offering flexibility for next three days to change flights or re-book to alternative destinations.
Britain’s Independent newspaper notes: “In the longer term, France and other Schengen countries are likely to reintroduce permanent passport and ID checks in a bid to have more control over their borders.”
Global Travel Media reported in early September that the Schengen agreement was tottering (See: Cornerstone of touring Europe comes under severe threat)
Critics have pointed out that ‘borderless’ travel among European countries only works if the external borders around Europe are secure. They are not. Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees are walking or sailing in, entering usually from Greece or Italy.
In related events, Poland’s government announced yesterday that in the wake of the attacks on Paris, it would no longer participate in the EU’s resettlement plan for the thousands of migrants attempting to reach Europe.
The plan, approved by Brussels in September, was strongly resisted by Eastern European countries, including Poland, who saw it as reckless and courting trouble. Recent events haven’t changed their minds.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advised yesterday:
Violent attacks in Paris on 13 November 2015 caused a large number of deaths and injuries. French authorities have declared a state of emergency and local police have advised the public in the Ile de France area to avoid going outdoors in coming hours.
As a precautionary measure, we advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Paris and the Ile de France area until the situation has stabilised.
French authorities have announced reinforced border measures. You should contact your airline or transport provider to determine how this could impact your travel plans. At a minimum, you should expect increased security and identity checks at borders.
Australians in Paris should remain vigilant and minimise their movement in public places, follow the media for latest information on security and follow the instructions of local authorities. Further violent incidents could occur.
There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. We assess there is a heightened threat of terrorist attack in a number of European countries, including France.
The overall level of advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise normal safety precautions in other parts of France.
Meanwhile, on behalf of the international tourism community, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) issued the following statement from its secretary-general, Taleb Rifai:
On behalf of the international tourism community, UNWTO conveys its heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the victims and expresses its full solidarity with the people and the Government of France. We are facing a global threat and this is not an attack on France, it is an attack against us all.
Written by Peter Needham