UK considers ban on British-born jihadists in Iraq and Syria returning home

Amer Sultan , Sunday 31 Aug 2014

The UK government is considering a provisional ban on the return of British-born Islamist fighters currently in Iraq and Syria

Mark Rowley
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the lead for counter-terrorism in the Association of Chief Police Officers (Photo:Reuters)

The UK government is proposing a temporary ban on British-born jihadists in Iraq and Syria returning to the UK, the BBC has revealed.

Under the plan, ministers are considering boosting the UK's counter-terrorism strategy. British nationals suspected of being involved in terrorist acts would be allowed to keep their British citizenship, the broadcaster quoted a government source as saying, but not be allowed re-entry.

In an official statement to the House of Commons tomorrow, David Cameron, the UK prime minister, is expected to explain the government's plans to counter the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

On Friday, the UK's terror threat level was raised from "substantial" to "severe" in response to conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the lead for counter-terrorism in the Association of Chief Police Officers, said security and protection measures were being increased following the raised threat level.

Some UK security officials, including the chief of the British Police, have suggested that terrorists who travelled to fight along the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria should be stripped of their passports.

Suspected fighters would be prevented from re-entering the UK for a period of time, according to new information leaked to the BBC.

The prime minister is reportedly looking into making it easier to seize the passports of would-be terrorists travelling abroad.

A government source told BBC News: "The government is considering a range of measures to keep the country safe in the face of an increased threat level from Islamist extremism.”

The Liberal Democrats, the lesser partner of the UK coalition government, is understood to be against extreme measures such as withdrawing nationality from suspects.

Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrats leader, has said his party would only agree to policies that were made calmly, on the basis of evidence, and that maintained the liberty of British citizens.

Under a current royal prerogative, the home secretary has the power to withhold a passport if it is in the public interest to stop a British citizen from travelling.

Richard Barrett, a former chief of counter-terrorism in both Mi5 and Mi6, has warned against “a rush” to toughen terror legislation in the face of an “unproven threat” from homegrown militants fighting in Syria and Iraq.

“The fundamental tenet of British justice should not be changed, even in a minor way, for this unproven threat,” he said recently in interview.

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