Security, Open Borders and Travelism – Time for a Reality Check!

Brussels- Sitting at my desk, watching continuous news bulletins on the bombs at our airport and on our metro, makes me focus a little more on what has happened at an increasing number of destinations since 5 aircraft were hijacked at the same time in 1970 and how as a young man, I worked with IATA’s then Director General Knut Hammarskjold to help establish a security organization where one hadn’t been needed before. It made me realize how fragile we are to committed psychopath killers and how much unsung hard work has to go into our protection.

Given the massive ramp up of government and industry response mechanisms’ – particularly around aviation – since then and post 9/11, I’m tempted to raise my eyes to the heavens and say how can we protect an entire way of life from a growing number of crazy people planning lone (but orchestrated) terror attacks on an increasingly connected and vulnerable civilization.

Yet protect it we must – Travel & Transport connectivity is the lifeblood of our globalizing world and a base component for projected sustainable growth, poverty reduction and inclusive lifestyles, so we would do well to look at any and all ways that might make even a small difference.

But how can you protect every airport; every train station: every bus terminal: every underground entrance – everywhere? Because we are a linked system and because that’s what we will have to do if the Terrorism linked to radical Islam continues unabated. And yes I know it’s not the only form of terror out there and the others are just as despicable BUT the reality is that the horror attacks of the past three decades have mostly come from that source. I looked on Wikipedia and found some 30 pages of such attacks listed.

I don’t know the answers any more than the real experts who are looking at this but some things are becoming clearer.

  • World Leaders needs to unite and act to defeat ISIS and any other anti-civilization groups and eradicate them – it may sound Donald Trumpish (aaaagh) but there are no other alternatives than to eliminate people whose life goal is to kill you. That is what wars are fought for and this is a war. We will never be free of this kind of barbarism – humanity never has – but we can dramatically reduce risks by getting behind the fight against radical extremism.
  • Fellow Travellers inside our own community should look into the consequences of their tacit support for the crazy people and the propaganda they spread as a consequence.
  • Major Transport Nodes – air specifically, but also land and sea – will need a progressive but rapid upgrade to scan entry more effectively and make the interiors sterile. It’s just too easy to wander in now unchallenged. It’s a modern day extension of the same issue we had when security checks were first established at airports in the 1970’s – with modern technology available to provide security and facilitation together. And over times this will sadly have to be extended further and further into our public places
  • All the emotional stuff about open borders is not going to happen so we should stop preaching about it. We need secure borders with simple electronically enabled travel (like the Australian e-visa the you can get online so easily BUT you put all your details into the database which allows pre-flight checking with police and security services.)
  • We should look at out of the box solutions to the alleged consequences of global wars like Syria – eg the EU should lease for 50 years some of Greece’s 1000 uninhabited island and turn them into model refugee reception points with decent planned facilities and working economies – maybe built on Tourism (an idea developed from an original thought by Egyptian billionaire Nabil Sawiris) and maybe also helping Greece’s debt problem. And we should build Green Growth and Climate Resilience from the outset with renewable energy and decent living conditions part of the specs and even perhaps providing holidays for disadvantaged people who normally don’t get the chance of a vacation.
  • This would be a great project for the EU because it would be a positive collective effort to help the poor homeless refugees to prepare for a better life. It would ease the strain on national borders and treasuries. It would be a good infrastructure building stimulus. It would be a good social inclusion initiative. Last but not least it might seriously help with Greece’s debt problems.
  • It would also be a great project to unite the Travelism Industry behind – someone with money (eg Mr Sawiris, or Sir Richard Branson) might like to put up the money to bring a group of out of the box thinkers together to see where they could take it.

Observation by Professor Geoffrey Lipman President ICTP
Founder SUN – Strong Universal Network for Climate Resilience and Green Growth.