Addressing Australian MPs, Prime Minister David Cameron today announced anti-terrorism legislation that would “be among the toughest in the world in terms of cracking down on foreign fighters.” The proposed measures include confiscating passports from radical Britons in the UK and temporarily barring British jihadists in Iraq or Syria from returning home if they do not agree to strict supervision.
The Henry Jackson Society welcomes the proposals as a necessary part of a broad anti-terrorism strategy. In a September briefing, British Jihadists: Preventing Travel Abroad and Stopping Attacks at Home, HJS called for legislation to allow the confiscation of passports in order to prevent suspected British radicals from travelling to Syria or Iraq. We are confident that this practical step will significantly reduce the ability of suspected British radicals to travel to Syria or Iraq.
Further details will need clarification, however, to ensure the successful passage of the bill in January, including assurances from countries such as Turkey that they are willing to detain fighters banned from returning from the UK. As the Temporary Exclusion Orders can be renewed, if such a fighter refused to agree to certain surveillance measures, this detention could theoretically last years at a time.
Furthermore, those facing temporary passport seizures will need to be closely monitored in order to prevent possible ‘revenge’ attacks on British soil. Such an incident has already occurred in Canada, when Michael Zehaf-Bibeau carried out a shooting spree in Canada’s parliament and at its national war memorial after having his passport application delayed. He was planning on travelling abroad – most likely to Syria.
Hannah Stuart, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society, commented: “The proposed legislation reflects the severe threat to the UK from returning British jihadists.
“Though more details are needed to ensure temporary exclusion is both lawful and workable, today’s measures are a welcome addition to our developing counter-terrorism strategy and send a strong message that travelling abroad to fight with terrorist groups that threaten our way for life will not be tolerated.”