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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

British ISIL fighters face help with jobs and homes - report

New plan to reintegrate disillusioned former ISIL members amid fears of further terrorist attacks on UK targets

The new plan to reintegrate disillusioned former ISIL members follows concerns over the emergence of home-grown terror threats with four major attacks attributed to Islamist extremists in 2017, including one at a music concert in Manchester (pictured). Peter Byrne/PA via AP
The new plan to reintegrate disillusioned former ISIL members follows concerns over the emergence of home-grown terror threats with four major attacks attributed to Islamist extremists in 2017, including one at a music concert in Manchester (pictured). Peter Byrne/PA via AP

Terrorist suspects including those who have returned from fighting in Iraq and Syria could receive help in finding jobs and homes to reintegrate them into British society, according to media reports.

The strategy, called Operation Constrain, is aimed at targeting 20,000 extremists once considered “subjects of interest” but who have dropped off the radar of the security services, according to documents seen by The Mail on Sunday.

The plan would involve police and social workers contacting those already on the database of the domestic security service MI5 to check their suitability for the programme. Those targeted could include some of the estimated 850 Britons who travelled to join ISIL, the report said.

Britons are among more than 40,000 foreigners from 110 countries who joined the group before and after the group’s declaration of a caliphate in June 2014, according to a report last week by The Soufan Center, a global security think tank.

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It said at least 5,600 people from 33 countries have already returned home representing a “huge challenge” for security services and law enforcement. About half of British foreign fighters are believed to have returned, a higher proportion than all but three countries, sparking debate over what should be done with them.

The head of MI5 has warned of an intense threat they pose to UK security following ISIL’s loss of its one-time stronghold of Raqqa. A minister in the UK’s international development ministry, Rory Stewart, said that British foreign fighters were part of a death cult who should be killed before they left the country.

The country’s top prosecution lawyer has called for more powers, while the government’s reviewer of terrorism legislation told the BBC last week that there was already an “armoury of legal powers” that could be brought to bear including temporary exclusion orders from the country.

“We’re told we have a significant number already back in this country who have previously gone to Iraq and Syria,” the reviewer, Max Hill, said. “That means the authorities have looked at them and looked at them hard and have decided that they do not justify prosecution.

“We really should be looking at reintegration and moving away from any notion that we are going to lose a generation due to this travel.”

Operation Constrain would be a step up from the UK’s current deradicalisation programme Prevent, which provides training for teachers, doctors and youth workers to spot and report people of concern.

It is due to start next year and be funded by the £900 million budget already targeted for counter-extremism work. It follows concerns over the emergence of home-grown terror threats with four major attacks attributed to Islamist extremists in 2017.

They included attacks on a music concert in Manchester and two similar attacks in central London using vehicles to ram pedestrians before carrying out further random stabbings, leaving a total of 36 people dead. Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old who used a car to kill four pedestrians in March 22 before stabbing a police officer to death, was believed to be one of the 20,000 who was known to the security services but not believed to be a major threat.

The attacks prompted questions about the ability of the security services to monitor the activities of thousands of potential suspects. A Home Office spokesman declined to comment about Operation Constrain but confirmed it was reviewing its counter terrorism strategy to respond to an evolving threat.

“It is vital that we use all the means at our collective disposal to divert people away from terrorist-related activity and we are exploring the best ways of doing this with our partners,” it said in a statement.

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