Britons offering to deter others after fighting in Iraq and Syria should be helped for national security, William Hague says
(The Guardian) The UK will help jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria to recover if they have “good intentions” about stopping others joining the conflict, the Conservative leader of the Commons, has said.
In a change of tone, William Hague said that some will “just need help because they will have been through an extremely traumatic period” while fighting overseas.
Downing Street initially floated the idea of banning radical Islamist fighters from coming back to Britain, but the proposal was dropped when it emerged that it would be illegal to make people stateless.
Despite a call from Ukip for returning fighters to be stripped of their citizenship, Hague appeared to soften the government’s rhetoric on the subject as he spoke on the BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.
“We haven’t had a lot of people coming back yet and saying they want to be of assistance, but if they do of course the government, the police, the National Health Service will work with those people and help them to recover and to assist others,” he said.
“Our top priority has to be the security of the people of this country and that is why we will take action. Where we think people could be dangerous, we confiscate passports. We’re working on additional powers to be introduced in parliament. There have been over 200 arrests this year related to people going to Iraq and Syria.
“But the Home Office and the police and the NHS are also working together on what we can do to assist those people who do come back with good intentions. Of course, we will have to be sure that they do have good intentions.”
A father of three young men who have gone to fight in Syria, two of whom have been killed, told the same programme that his sons had been “naive” and acted out of kindness.
“I do not agree with the word radicalised. My sons went, they did a mistake, they were naive to think that going to Syria and fighting will make a change,” Abubaker Deghayes said.
“I consider it out of their kindness, out of their humanity and conscience, that’s why they took this step, but at the same time, what they did is not right.
“They miscalculated it, because the Syrians do not need foot fighters, they need much more complicated things than that in the war against [President] Assad to stop these atrocities.”
In September, Downing Street widely trailed proposals to prevent British-born citizens returning to the country from Syria or Iraq if they were suspected of being involved in acts of terror.
But David Cameron was forced to shelve the key part of that plan amid legal uncertainty, Liberal Democrat objections, and doubts within the security services.
The former Conservative attorney general Dominic Grieve warned that removing passports from UK-born citizens returning home would breach international law and UK common law.
He said: “Even taking such powers on a temporary basis is likely to be a non-starter.”