Questions are being asked in the Dutch press about whether cancelling the passports of Dutch jihadis to stop them travelling to join Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq is counter productive.
The questions come in the wake of two incidents in Canada in which three people were killed by radical Muslims whose passports had been confiscated to stop them travelling abroad. The Canadian government considered them ‘high-risk travellers’.
Justice minister Ivo Opstelten said at the end of September, the Netherlands has cancelled the passports of 49 dual nationals, 41 of whom were planning to head to Syria or Iraq and eight who are already there.
But questions are now being asked about the wisdom of such a move. Volkskrant commentator Raoul de Pre asks if stopping potential jihadis going abroad might not lead them to take out their aggression on the Netherlands.
PVV leader Geert Wilders, he points out, has already said government policy is ‘incredibly stupid’.
‘Now they’re walking around on the streets. People who want to wage jihad, chop off heads, carry out terrorist attacks are now walking around among us thanks to the minister’s decision,’ Wilders said several months ago.
Cancelling passports, tracking, stopping benefits and freezing financial assets are some of the measures taken by the Dutch state to discourage potential jihadis.
The cabinet is also looking into removing Dutch citizenship from jihadis for ‘volunteering to fight abroad with a terrorist group’.
The AD on Friday carried several quotes from Dutch jihadis currently in Aleppo, who also warn that cancelling people’s passports could be counter-productive.
‘Stopping potential jihadis from leaving will make an attack more likely. I don’t think you want hundreds of angry jihadis in your backyard,’ one told the AD.
‘Legitimate’ targets could include the military and politicians, they told the paper. ‘Politicians are the ones who decide to go to war, soldiers are mere pawns. (..) Give these noble Islamic freedom fighters back their passports and let them leave’, the AD quotes another as saying.
Terrorism expert Beatrice de Graaf told Elsevier magazine the advantages and disadvantages of confiscating passports are not clear but in spite of this she supports the measure.
‘If you let them go they will come back trained and even more determined to fight their cause,’ Elsevier quotes her as saying.
Meanwhile, Hilversum mayor Pieter Broertjes was forced to apologise after telling a radio programme passports shouldn’t be cancelled without good reason, by comparing Syria with post-WWII Israel.
Broertjes was asked about a family from Hilversum which travelled to Syria to join the jihad with their four young children. ‘You have to make a very good case for taking away someone’s passport’, Broertjes said. ‘There have to be proper legal grounds. We can’t be sure if people are actually going there to fight.’
When asked if jihadis should simply be allowed to travel to Syria and fight Broertjes said: ‘These people are adults. The Dutch went to Israel after the war to fight the British and we didn’t stop them then&rsquo.’
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