British fighters in Syria face passport ban

MPs want tougher penalties to punish Britons for joining Syrian war and deter those who are considering it.

    British fighters in Syria face passport ban
    Politicians say alarming levels of Westerners are travelling to Syria [Al Jazeera]

    UK politicians have demanded that Britons fighting in Syria have their passports withdrawn, calling the step "a vital tool" in preventing people from joining foreign conflicts.

    The recommendation appeared in a 246-page counter-terrorism report, published on Friday, from the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee.

    It said the number of UK citizens and Westerners travelling to fight in foreign conflicts had reached "alarming levels unlike anything seen in recent years".

    The group of politicians said in the report: "We require an immediate response targeted at dissuading and preventing those who wish to go to fight from going; helping countries who are key to intercepting those who are entering Syria, and ensuring those who return do not present a danger to the UK.

    "Given that the estimates of foreign fighters are in the low hundreds, we are surprised that it [the power to revoke passports] has only been used 14 times since April 2013 and recommend that, in all appropriate circumstances where there is evidence, the power is utilised as an exceptional preventative and temporary measure."

    The same report also recommended the use of "spotters" - people placed along the Syrian border to monitor individuals crossing it. The measure is used to track football hooligans when they travel abroad.

    A perfect storm

    Syria, the report said, offered a "perfect storm" with regards to foreign fighters because of its accessibility, its sectarian element, a "viable narrative" and its proximity to other conflicts.

    The report notes that, in the first two weeks of 2014, 14 people were arrested in relation to Syrian-linked activities compared to 24 people arrested during the course of 2013.

    But the report also suggested that mental health practitioners help those returning from the civil war, as their experiences in Syria "may well make them vulnerable to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder thereby increasing their vulnerability to radicalisation".

    Governments have become increasingly concerned about their citizens travelling to Syria.

    Earlier this month, the FBI Director James Comey issued a warning that more Americans were going to the war-torn country and were encouraging others to join them. Last month, France announced a series of measures, including a telephone hotline and stripping people of their nationality, to curb the flow of citizens.

    Also last month, the UK said it was reaching out to Muslim women to help curb trips to Syria.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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