Banning Return of ISIS Fighters Would Remove Burden on Police Forces, Ministers Told

Banning all Islamic State terrorists from returning to the UK would “remove a substantial burden” from police forces, ministers have been told.

Conservative MP Luke Hall (Thornbury and Yate) argued that the public is concerned that countries were taking “too lax an attitude in dealing with extremism”.

He said signatories to a petition calling for a ban on foreign fighters returning to the UK were concerned an environment existed where “people feel able to join terrorist groups without any retribution”.

His comments were made in a Westminster Hall debate triggered by the online petition that called on the Government to “ban all Isis members from returning to UK”.

More than 580,000 people have signed the petition, with 100,000 needed for it to be considered for debate in Parliament.

The debate comes after Islamic State bride Shamima Begum was stripped of her citizenship by Home Secretary Sajid Javid after she was found in a Syrian refugee camp.

Mr Hall said: “There are also a number of people who have signed this petition who feel that at the point that foreign fighters come to the realisation that the area they have travelled to is not the utopia which they had anticipated, they feel freely able to return to their old lives in Britain without being prosecuted.

“And taking a strong line in denying these people the right to return to the UK at all would remove a substantial burden from our police force who are required to spend time and resource in response to terrorism-related incidents and that they time could be better used on other issues.”

During the debate MPs also argued that Ms Begum should be returned to the UK as part of efforts to prosecute British citizens who join terrorist organisations abroad.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Ms Begum should be “brought home, questioned, interrogated and put on trial if that was the right thing to do”.

Ms Abbott warned that stripping British citizenship from people with dual nationalities could be “potentially counter-productive”.

Independent MP John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) said “I think it is deeply alarming that it seems possible that there is not sufficient evidence to try her.”

He argued Ms Begum was “our problem to sort out” and MPs need to be careful what message they were sending out to other British citizens.

Mr Hall said the Government should retain the option of stripping citizenship from foreign fighters but highlighted the circumstances of each case were different and there was no “catch-all solution”.

He called on the Government to explain what action it was taking to build cases against and prosecute foreign fighters.

Mr Hall told MPs that according to the Home Secretary, around 900 people of concern to national security had travelled to Syria and Iraq.

Of these around 20% had been killed, 40% remained in the region and 40% had returned to the UK.

More than 100 people had been deprived of their citizenship, he added.

Ms Begum, from Bethnal Green, who left the UK for Syria aged 15, previously said she wanted to return to the UK for the sake of her newborn baby boy.

Mr Javid later rejected suggestions he was responsible for three-week-old Jarrah’s death after the baby caught pneumonia in the refugee camp.