British PM Plans to Seize Passports, Block Returning Jihadists

By Patrick Goodenough | September 1, 2014 | 8:30pm EDT

British police officers stand guard outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron is expected on Monday to expand powers to combat terrorism in hopes of preventing attacks by Islamist militants returning from terror training in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

( – Weeks before President Obama hosts a special U.N. Security Council meeting on foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq, British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced new steps aimed at combating the threat they pose to countries of origin on their return from the region.

Proposed measures include the seizing of passports to prevent suspected extremists from leaving Britain in the first place, and powers to prevent those already fighting for jihadist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS/ISIL) from returning.

Foreign citizens will be kept out, dual nationals will be deprived of their citizenship to stop them returning, and naturalized Britons will risk having their citizenship revoked, he told the House of Commons on Monday.

Returnees with British-only citizenship pose a more difficult problem, as stripping them of citizenship would render them stateless. Even so, Cameron said, “it is abhorrent that people who declare their allegiance elsewhere are able to return to the United Kingdom and pose a threat to our national security,” and so proposals were being examined for “targeted, discretionary powers to allow us to exclude British nationals from the U.K.”

Airlines will be obliged to cooperate with no-fly arrangements, security screening requirements, and provide information on passenger lists – or not be allowed to land on British soil.

Speaking three days after Britain raised the terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe,” Cameron said an estimated 500 British citizens have traveled to the Middle East to fight with ISIS and other groups.

“This is in addition to 700 from France, 400 from Germany and hundreds more from countries including America, Canada, Austria, Denmark, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia.”

Cameron told lawmakers that European Union leaders meeting in Brussels over the weekend had declared that “the creation of an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria and the Islamist extremism and export of terrorism on which it is based is a direct threat to every European country.”

He had strong words for ISIS, although at the same time was careful not to associate the radicals with mainstream Islam.

“We should be clear about the root cause of this threat: A poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism, which believes in using the most brutal forms of terrorism to force people to accept a warped world view and to live in a medieval state,” he said.

“And we should be clear that this is nothing to do with Islam, which is a religion peacefully observed and devoutly observed by over a billion people and one that inspires countless acts of kindness every day.”

He spoke of the need to “deradicalize” some British Muslims, with schools, universities and prisons focused on the task.

Cameron said Britain was a free and tolerant nation – “but that tolerance must never be confused with a passive acceptance of cultures living separate lives, or people behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values. Adhering to British values is not an option or a choice; it is a duty to all those who live in these islands.”

“So we will stand up for our values,” he continued. “We will in the end defeat this extremism. And we will secure our way of life for generations to come.”

More broadly in response to the ISIS threat, Cameron reiterated support for U.S. airstrikes against ISIS fighters in Iraq. U.S. Central Command said Sunday the U.S. military has now carried out a total of 120 airstrikes against ISIS positions in Iraq since August 8.

Cameron said Britain was directly providing military equipment to Kurdish forces fighting the jihadists, and said it would consider what further diplomatic, humanitarian or military steps it might take.

Work was being done through the U.N. Security Council to disrupt recruitment and funding to ISIS, he said, and the NATO summit in Wales this week would provide the opportunity to review the effectively of the international response and to discuss what more should be done to help the region overcome the threat.

The U.S. holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month, and when world leaders visit New York later this month for the opening of the annual General Assembly session Obama will convene a Security Council at heads of government level to focus on the “foreign fighter” threat.

“We are very concerned about the risk that those individuals pose to the 50 countries from which they travelled,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said last week, noting that “in many cases, these are individuals that have Western passports.”

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