British home secretary to use powers to deter Britons from traveling to Syria

"The UK has a coherent, connected approach to intelligence and security and when threats appear, the world still turns to the UK for leadership, support, and action," concluded Javid's statement.

May 20, 2019 13:55
3 minute read.
Britain's Secretary of State for local government Sajid Javid leaves a cabinet meeting in Downing St

Britain's Secretary of State for local government Sajid Javid leaves a cabinet meeting in Downing Street, London, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall . (photo credit: REUTERS/NEIL HALL)


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British Home Secretary Sajid Javid plans to use a recently passed counterterrorism bill introduced into the United Kingdom's Parliament in 2018 to effectively ban Britons from traveling to deemed designated terrorist destinations, and will designate Syria as one of these destinations.

Javid intends to use this legislation to warn British citizens who are currently in Syria without a "legitimate reason, [that they] should be on notice.” The new counterterrorism bill will give these citizens one month to leave the war-torn country or face criminal prosecution by the state.

The legislation comes among government concern that it lacks the ability to prosecute alleged terrorist cells who returned home from these designated areas, due to the government's capacity to build evidence against their own citizens in sensitive cases such as these.

"I've asked my officials to work closely with the police and intelligence agencies to urgently review the case for exercising this power in relation to Syria, with a particular focus on Idlib and the northeast," Javid is expected to tell senior UK officials in London officials, according to the British newspaper The Sun. "So anyone who is in these areas without a legitimate reason should be on notice."

The bill will "make it an offense to enter or remain in certain areas as designated by the Secretary of State (e.g. areas controlled by certain terrorist groups)," as well as grant British authorities the ability to prosecute those expressing support or streaming content related to terrorist organizations. The law also gives the government the ability to suspend or confiscate Briton's passports if the government has reasonable suspicion of a suspect expected of previous radicalization.

Javid makes this push as he looks to gain favor to become the next conservative leader and prime minister of the UK, according to the British news outlet The Times. Javid has not confirmed whether he plans to run or not, but he is considered to have been moving in this direction through recent speeches and media interviews.

A move comes shortly after ISIS bride Shamima Begum was relieved of her citizenship by British authorities after joining the Islamic group in Syria - later being found in a Syrian refugee camp.

"The provisions follow the Government’s commitment to review and update its counterterrorism strategy, and are also a reaction to terrorist attacks in the UK over the last few years," according to the UK Parliament's website. "In addition, the Bill would provide officials powers to stop, search and detain individuals at ports and borders to determine whether individuals are involved with, or have been involved with, 'hostile state activity.'"

Javid reported to the House of Commons earlier this year that it was estimated that some 900 people from the United Kingdom joined ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) - of those 40% appear to be somewhere in the region, 40% have returned to the United Kingdom and 20% have been killed in battle, according to the BBC.

"As these threats become more global we all rely on an international system of defense, policing, security and intelligence - a safety net based upon co-operation and unity," Javid will say, according to the BBC. "These structures rely upon free, democratic nations to pool information, coordinate law enforcement action and surrender suspected criminals across borders.

"More than any other country on Earth, the UK has a coherent, connected approach to intelligence and security and when threats appear, the world still turns to the UK for leadership, support, and action," the home secretary's statement concluded.

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