London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The British government is considering new measures to stop suspected British jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq from returning back to the country, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday.
Under the new law, suspected fighters, including teenagers, could be barred from entering the UK for a period stretching between 1–2 years unless they agree to follow strict controls, Cameron announced in a speech delivered to the Australian parliament, where he is attending the G20 Summit.
Turmoil in the Middle East has raised concerns that homegrown jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq may return to stage terrorist operations in Britain.
The country’s security services estimate that some 500 British nationals have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Around half of them are believed to have already returned home.
The proposed law is part of the government’s bid to crack down on the growing radicalization of British youth.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Scotland Yard spokesman Alan Crockford said protecting citizens against the risk of being dragged into Syria and other countries remained a priority for the country’s counterterrorism police.
He added that the British government and its allies were carrying out around 100 preventive extremism-related operations on a weekly basis.
More than half of these aimed to seek to direct individuals susceptible to extremism to attend de-radicalization programs providing them with multiple means of support, including offering them accommodation, education, work and mental health assessment.
Under the proposed law, it is expected that commercial airline companies will be required to provide the British authorities with lists of passengers’ names.
Companies who do not comply may risk facing a fine or being banned from landing in UK airports.
Meanwhile, the US government said it was sending 70 prosecutors to the Balkans, the Middle East and North Africa to “track down” jihadists returning from Syria, the French news agency AFP reported on Friday.
“These personnel will provide critical assistance to our allies in order to help prosecute those who return from the Syrian region bent on committing acts of terrorism,” US Attorney General Eric Holder told officials on Friday.
The prosecutors are tasked with sharing information and carrying out investigations in a bid “to ensure that the country has in place statutes that are consistent with the UN counterterrorism convention,” Holder said.