France proposes anti-terrorist travel bans

A French antiterrorist policeman in Cannes, southern France, 6 October 2012 Image copyright AFP
Image caption A French anti-terrorist policeman in Cannes, southern France, October 2012

The French government has proposed six-month travel bans to stop citizens travelling to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside Islamist militants.

A new offence of creating an "individual terrorist enterprise", designed to counter the threat of "lone wolves", would also be established.

Government officials say that two or three young Muslims leave France every day to join Islamist groups abroad.

There are fears they will eventually pose a threat to France itself.

A French citizen arrested for the killing of four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May, Mehdi Nemmouche, had returned from Syria, after being radicalised in prison.

Another French-born jihadist, Mohamed Merah, killed seven people in Toulouse in 2012 before being shot by police. His victims were three paratroopers as well as three children and a teacher at a Jewish school.

EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gille de Kerchove announced on Tuesday that interior ministers from nine countries had adopted an action plan to identify people travelling to Syria and stop them falling into terrorism on their return.

The countries that signed up to the plan are Belgium, France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands

  • The UK has threatened to cancel passports of jihadists
  • UK courts have tried a number of people for the offence of preparing to carry out terrorist acts
  • The Netherlands has refused passports to at least 10 citizens suspected of planning to travel to Syria for jihad
  • Seven Dutch militants were reported killed in Syria on Wednesday
  • Germany believes it has some 300 nationals fighting in Syria

Freedom of Schengen

The French bill would allow the authorities to impose six-month travel bans on people suspected of planning to make the trip to the danger zone.

Young Muslims planning to join militant groups like Isis (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) travel on low-cost tourist flights to Turkey, then are met by contacts who take them across the Syrian border.

Under the new bill, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve would be able to impose a renewable six-month travel ban on individuals who have been identified by the intelligence services.

These people would have their passports confiscated and in theory be unable to travel - though, in fact, because of the border-free Schengen zone, they will still be able to move about inside the EU, right up to the Greek border with Turkey, the BBC's Hugh Schofield reports from Paris.

The "individual terrorist enterprise" clause is meant to counter the threat of solitary Islamists, acting outside organised structures and planning personal acts of terrorism on French soil.

Details of the EU action plan were confidential, Mr Kerchove said after interior ministers met in the Italian city of Milan. The plan is due to be discussed further in October.

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