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CRIME

Safety fears after gang storm Paris train

Security has been stepped up on Paris’s notorious RER rail service after a 20-strong gang of robbers targeted passengers on a train. New figures reveal 150 crimes are committed each a day on the capital's rail network.

Safety fears after gang storm Paris train
Photo: Paul Beattie

Police have been forced to put reinforcements on the capital's overground RER train service after a 20-strong gang carried out an audacious robbery on passengers, while they were stopped at a station.

The  robbers, reportedly armed with pepper spray stormed a train at Grigny station on the RER line D on Saturday. They threatened passengers before relieving them of their personal valuables, in what witnesses described was a “highly organized” attack.

Police have boosted numbers on the line and at Grigny station to reassure passengers.

“Before, these kinds of robberies were generally carried out by four or five people working together, but in this case they numbered 20, which is worrying,” one officer told France’s 20 Minutes website.

France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls visited Grigny on Tuesday and made a public appeal for both victims and witnesses of the crime to come forward.

The RER service, which links Paris to the surrounding suburbs and Ile-de-France region, has a reputation for being a crime hotspot, which was backed up by figures published on Wednesday.

According to data published in Le Figaro, there are 150 reported crimes each day on the rail network in and around Paris. In total there are around 55,000 crimes each year on the RER and metro services in the French capital, which represents a rise of 1.7 percent on last year.

Although Le Figaro reports that acts of violence on trains decreased in 2012, attacks against members of staff soared by 25 percent.

Opposition UMP deputy Valerie Pécresse wants more CCTV cameras installed on RER trains and at stations, to try and cut down crime.

“This attack marks a change in the methods used by these gangs,” Pécresse said. “CCTV needs to be used in real time by the police and there needs to be more security staff in place,” she said.

Jean Claude Delarue from rail users group FUTSP wants the government to do more to protect travellers on the RER.

“We are asking the minister to make decisions and not just send in a few extra policemen for a couple of days,” said Delarue.

In February this year, a gang of similarly audacious robbers held up a Paris-bound train in Marseille, in what one policeman described as like a "scene out of  the wild west". Luckily they were unable to board the train.

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TRAVEL NEWS

EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Two major changes that were due to come into force in 2022 for travellers entering the EU - an enhanced passport scanning system and the introduction of a €7 visa for tourists - have been delayed for a year.

EU delays passport scan system and €7 travel fee until 2023

Although both the EES and ETIAS schemes are still due to be introduced in the European Commission has pushed back the start dates for both until 2023.

It comes amid a chaotic summer for travel in Europe, with airports struggling with staff shortages and strikes while some crossings from the UK to France have been hit by long delays as extra post-Brexit checks are performed during the peak holiday season. 

The two separate changes to travel in the EU and Schengen zone were originally due to come into effect in 2020, but were delayed because of the pandemic. Now the EES system is expected to come into effect in May 2023, while ETIAS will come into effect in November 2023. 

The EES – Entry and Exit System – is essentially enhanced passport scanning at the EU’s borders and means passports will not only be checked for ID and security, but also for entry and exit dates, in effect tightening up enforcement of the ’90 day rule’ that limits the amount of time non-EU citizens can spend in the Bloc without having a visa.

It will not affect non-EU citizens who live in an EU country with a residency permit or visa.

There have been concerns that the longer checks will make transiting the EU’s external borders slower, a particular problem at the UK port of Dover, where the infrastructure is already struggling to cope with enhanced post-Brexit checks of people travelling to France.

You can read a full explanation of EES, what it is and who is affects HERE.

The ETIAS system will apply to all non-EU visitors to an EU country – eg tourists, second-home owners, those making family visits and people doing short-term work.

It will involve visitors registering in advance for a visa and paying a €7 fee. The visa will be valid for three years and can be used for multiple trips – essentially the system is very similar to the ESTA visa required for visitors to the USA. 

Residents of an EU country who have a residency card or visa will not need one.

You can read the full details on ETIAS, how it works and who it affects HERE.

Both systems will apply only to people who do not have citizenship of an EU country – for example Brits, Americans, Australians and Canadians – and will be used only at external EU/Schengen borders, so it won’t be required when travelling between France and Germany, for example. 

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