The expiration of France's State of Emergency, and its replacement with a new anti-terrorism law, indicates that French authorities view the threat of Islamist-inspired attacks as persistent and unchanged; in short, the state of heightened security will continue nationwide indefinitely. The anti-terrorism law, which came into effect Nov. 1, permanently grants security personnel the power to, with some exceptions unique to the State of Emergency, detain and question suspected terrorists, and increase surveillance at public events, transport hubs, and borders. A visibly heightened police and military presence - as well as related security alerts - at heavily trafficked locations throughout the country will likely prompt disruptions to transport and business operations.
- iJET continues to assess the threat of terrorism in France to be moderate - while small cells of international terrorist organizations are present, acts of terrorism are uncommon.
- Heightened security measures will remain in place indefinitely at potential targets, including major transportation hubs, religious institutions, tourist attractions, and critical infrastructure.
- Frequent, unannounced security operations will likely persist in the same manner as during the State of Emergency.
- Security operations will likely cause sporadic, temporary, disruptions to commercial and transport operations for the foreseeable future.
The ratification of the anti-terrorism law following the expiration of the State of Emergency - which was introduced after the November 2015 Islamic State (IS)-perpetrated attack in Paris - does not demonstrate any major change in the terrorist threat, but rather reflects the government's recognition that terrorism has become a normal facet of France's security environment. President Emmanuel Macron has credited the State of Emergency with successfully preventing more than 30 planned terrorist attacks since 2015. The law aims to reduce the likelihood of attacks carried out by international terrorist networks and radicalized, IS-inspired individuals and groups. The government affirms that the new law gives security personnel expansive powers to prevent future attacks. The government can also reimpose a state of emergency on top of the anti-terrorism law if the threat of a coordinated mass attack emerges.
The terrorist threat in France is consistent with many other Western European nations. Radicalized individuals likely pose the greatest threat. Individuals inspired by international Islamist groups have carried out large-scale operations in the country - such as the November 2015 Paris attack, which was claimed by IS. Lone, self-radicalized IS sympathizers have also carried out assaults, such as the vehicle attack in Nice in July 2016, and knife and gun attacks on security forces in Paris and other cities.
The threat largely remains homegrown; French citizens and foreign nationals living in France who are inspired by IS ideology will likely attempt to carry out attacks. French authorities estimate that there are 690 French nationals in Iraq and Syria, though there is likely a low rate of return due to the tight security and strict legal proceedings awaiting returnees. Radicalized individuals have increasingly employed readily available weapons, such as knives or cars, to carry out attacks. However, the threat of a larger terrorist cell carrying out coordinated bomb or gun attacks cannot be ruled out.
While the new law relaxes several provisions of the State of Emergency, some have been made permanent. Law enforcement personnel will now require judicial warrants to carry out raids on private property - a procedure that was unnecessary under the State of Emergency. However, restrictions on demonstrations and places of worship promoting extremism will remain indefinitely; security forces will also retain the power to demand identification from anyone within a 10-km (7-mile) radius of ports and international airports and to access travel information from airlines and shipping companies.
The new anti-terrorism law should not significantly alter business operations or travel across France, but indefinite, tighter border controls and continued intensive screening of passengers, luggage, vehicles, and cargo could prompt processing delays at international transport hubs. Expect a visible security presence, including military deployments aiding police, around soft targets and critical infrastructure. The continued visible security presence could help deter potential plots or ensure a swift response in the event of an incident. Security personnel and the public will likely remain hyper-vigilant, and seemingly innocuous incidents - such as unattended bags - could prompt robust security responses, including area lockdowns, evacuations, and localized transport disruptions. Travel restrictions, including road closures and the suspension of public transport services, are possible with short notice in the event of a security operation or terrorist incident.
It remains impossible to predict where and when authorities will carry out a security operation or when the next terrorist incident may occur. However, there are measures individuals can take to reduce their risk of becoming involved. iJET's Security Operations team offers the following advice for consideration:
Before You Go
- Identify a friend or family member as a support person for your trip. Provide that individual with your itinerary and copies of your passport and visas. Save electronic copies of these documents that can reside in your phone, not in the cloud.
- Photocopy the contents of your wallet, including credit cards, insurance information, travel documents, etc. Email this information to yourself.
- Program into your phone contact information for your host, members of your party, nearest diplomatic mission, and other trusted local contacts. Print and carry a paper copy.
- Schedule flights that arrive and depart during off-peak travel times. These times may vary from airport to airport.
- Be aware of and prepared to use alternative transportation options if flights are canceled. Prearrange airport transfers.
- Have your transportation contact email you a picture of your driver, the vehicle to be used, and the license plate. Select hotels that have been vetted by a reputable travel security company.
- Prebook your first night's hotel stay. Request a room near the stairs or fire exit away from the street or entrance; ideally, your room should be between the second and seventh floor.
- If available, enroll in diplomatic mission travel security programs (e.g. STEP Program). At a minimum, register your trip with your diplomatic mission and include your contact information and itinerary.
- Print, carry, and learn to read maps of the cities/areas you will visit. Plan your routes.
Departure and Arrival
- Allow additional time to clear security at airports, railway stations, and border crossings.
- Carry proper identification at all times and a passport when crossing international borders.
- Minimize your time in the common areas of airports, which are less protected.
- Move quickly from the secured official and baggage claim areas through the lobby and to your transportation. Leave the airport as soon as possible.
- Use airline lounges/clubs, if possible. Sit on the periphery of the club, away from food and drink areas.
- Minimize time spent in public access areas, such as ticketing areas. Move to and through security checkpoints as quickly as possible.
- Avoid crowded areas. If you must be in a crowded area, position yourself near an exit or other egress point, preferably at the edge or on the periphery of a crowd. Note sudden increases in security presence/activities.
- Trust your instincts. Avoid people who appear suspicious or act differently than the crowd. Avoid using luggage tags identifying you as an obvious foreigner. Luggage tags should be covered to protect your contact information and address.
- Maintain a low profile; avoid dress, including clothing with logos, and behavior identifying you as an obvious foreigner.
- Maintain contact with other members of your party; call and text them upon arrival.
While at Your Destination
- Exercise commonsense security precautions and remain vigilant. Consider avoiding mass public gatherings out of an abundance of caution if authorities publicize any potential threats.
- Carry proper identification, such as passports, at all times.
- Maintain situational awareness; always be prepared to run or hide from a threat.
- Know the room numbers of all your colleagues.
- Keep children close at hand at all times.
- Refuse unexpected packages or visits from unknown people, businesses, or organizations; have all packages and correspondence delivered to the reception desk.
- Enlist your hotel or host in helping you select and make arrangements for taxis. Do not enter a vehicle you believe to be a taxi unless it is clearly identified.
- Before closing the door to a taxi, compare the face of the driver with the one posted on the displayed license; if the two do not match, do not accept the ride.
If Involved in a Potential Terrorist Incident
- Remain calm by breathing in for four seconds, holding for four seconds and exhaling for four seconds several times after an attack.
- Silence your phone.
- If possible, contact your nearest diplomatic mission, and ask for guidance.
- If there is a disturbance outside your hotel, keep your drapes closed, and stay away from the windows. Extinguish all lights. If you must have some light, turn on the bathroom light and crack the door. Assemble your traveling companions in one room.
- If you hear an explosion, resist the urge to look out the window. Seek shelter in your bathroom or, if possible, an interior stairwell.
- If gunfire occurs, get down as low as possible and try to shield yourself behind or under a solid object, such as a heavy piece of furniture.
- Follow all instructions and orders from security forces.
- Remain sheltered in a secure location until you are certain the danger has passed.
- Do not attempt to help emergency responders and do not resist terrorist demands.
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