Children indoctrinated by ISIL pose a threat to security – and the authorities are ill-equipped to cope, report warns
Babies of foreign fighters DNA-tested on return to UK
Babies born in ISIL-controlled territory are being DNA-tested to confirm their nationality when they return from Syria with defeated UK extremists, a senior counter-terrorist officer said on Thursday.
Tests were carried out on fewer than five “stateless" babies - normally before before they flew to the UK - to confirm they had the right to live in the country and to prevent human trafficking, according to London’s Metropolitan Police.
Older British-born children will also be screened because of concerns that they have been indoctrinated by ISIL and have the potential to carry out terrorist attacks in the UK.
“Some terror groups are training children to commit atrocities,” Commander Dean Haydon told London’s Evening Standard. “We need to not just understand the risk the mother poses but the risk that any child poses as well.”
Some 850 Britons are believed to have travelled to Syria over the past three years, not all to join ISIL or other terrorist groups. Around half have returned and about 15 per cent have been killed in fighting. A 27-year-old woman with a two-year-old child was arrested at Heathrow Airport last month.
“We have no intelligence to suggest children are coming back from Syria to commit atrocities in the UK,” said the force in a statement. “Every individual is assessed to identify whether they present any potential risk to security and if they require safeguarding measures, which can include taking children into care.”
A report published last year suggested European Union nations are ill-prepared for any large-scale return of children of foreign terrorist fighters left traumatised by life under ISIL control in Syria and Iraq.
Hundreds of children either travelled with their parents to conflict zones or were born there and are expected to return in large numbers as ISIL is defeated on the battlefield.
Women and children are expected to form a substantial proportion of an estimated 1,200 to 3,000 returnees to European countries, according to the report by the EU-funded Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN).
It warned that ISIL child recruits would pose a potential serious risk after being indoctrinated to show absolute loyalty to ISIS and commitment to martyrdom.
Their recruitment into ISIL starts at the age of nine and they are used in roles including as spies, executioners and suicide bombers. They are asked by ISIL officials to report any violations of religious laws by their parents.
The education is targeted at young people and justifies extreme violence on ideological grounds, mixed with elements of fantasy and play, said Nikita Malik, head of the counter radicalisation unit at the Henry Jackson Society who has studied ISIL teaching materials.
The indoctrination, their lack of documents, and the need for specialist care on their return have identified them as a serious and special issue, according to the RAN report.
“Many EU Member States have however indicated that they do not yet have the right structures in place should the influx of child returnees be rapid,” it said.
It called for basic training for teachers and social workers, clear legal framework for dealing with children and building up child welfare services.
The number of children of foreign fighters is unknown but the Dutch authorities estimated that at least 80 children with a Dutch connection lived within ISIL-held territory in Syria and Iraq with 80 per cent of them aged under eight. France has said there were around 460 French minors ISIL-claimed territory with a third born there.