Europe must get together and close its borders to all returning jihadis
Sweden’s decision to end its open frontier with Denmark is necessary for it to be able to defend itself
By Philip Johnston6:16PM GMT 04 Jan 2016 Comments149 Comments
You don’t need to have driven over the five-mile Oresund crossing between Denmark and Sweden to understand its importance. Any fan of the Nordic noir TV crime series The Bridge will be aware of how it facilitates borderless movement between the two countries to such an extent that they are virtually indistinguishable. Police officers dash back and forth between Copenhagen and Malmo into each other’s jurisdictions without a by-your-leave. So, too, do the criminals.
Sweden’s decision, therefore, to impose ID checks on travellers from Denmark is quite a moment. All train, bus and ferry passengers are now required to show photo identification before being allowed across a border that has not existed in any real sense for many years. The Scandinavians have been operating their own mini-Schengen area since the 1950s. The migration crisis, and Sweden’s propensity to take in more refugees per head of population than any other EU country, has put an end to that.
"Anyone who has gone to live in this self-styled caliphate should forfeit their nationality since they are so keen to adopt a new one"
However, this is not just about being able to control migration; it is also to do with security. How are countries to defend themselves against those determined to do them harm if they cannot identify who wants to enter and then decide whether or not to let them in? And that must include their own citizens, who pose the greatest threat of all.
The emergence of another Jihadi John character to taunt his homeland with promises of violence and carnage will reopen the debate about how to deal with those nationals whose loyalty now is to their self-styled caliphate.
The masked jihadi, speaking in a London accent, mocks David Cameron as “an imbecile” for ordering the RAF to target Islamic State (Isil) in Syria. He added: “All British government. All people of Britain, know that today your citizenship is under our feet and that the Islamic State, our country, is here to stay and we will continue to wage jihad, break borders and one day invade your land, when you will be ruled by Sharia.”
Leave aside the braggadocio and bluster about the ability of such a motley army to stage an invasion; but his threat to “break borders” is all too real. Thousands of foreign nationals have gone to fight with Isil in Syria and Iraq and many have returned to their home countries. The perpetrators of the Paris massacre were Belgians and French jihadis who had travelled in and out of Europe with ease, not least because there are (or were) no internal borders. Even though these people claim allegiance to their caliphate they use their citizenship to re-enter and conspire against the country they have disavowed. Why do we let them?
Anyone who has gone to live in this self-styled caliphate should forfeit their nationality since they are so keen to adopt a new one. It should be advertised loud and clear in all Muslim communities that if radicalised young Islamists go to Syria they cannot come back. They might try to, and might even succeed if their identity is never discovered; but most will be known to the police or the intelligence services and their names placed on a watch-list. It is hard to understand the arguments against banishing these people. They laugh at the international laws that prevent statelessness and scorn the half-cocked measures we are forced to introduce as a result, such as terrorist “asbos” and temporary exclusions orders.
There is an argument that returning jihadis can be deployed to dissuade other would-be fighters joining Isil in the first place. But finding former fanatics prepared to be branded apostates by their peers is not easy. The Government has an anti-radicalisation programme called Channel to which hundreds of suspected radicals have been referred to try to stop them falling into Isil’s clutches. Yet the scheme has been criticised for stigmatising all Muslims and it is not clear how successful it is at intercepting returning jihadis.
Around 700 British Muslims have travelled to Syria . Fifty or so have been killed while about 350 are thought to have been allowed back into the country and a few dozen have been convicted of offences for supporting terrorism abroad or are being investigated. But most have not been charged even though adherence to Isil is supposedly a crime.
Why is this? Has a decision been taken that most returning jihadis are harmless, made a mistake and will live blameless lives in future? Perhaps they will; but it is a big gamble for any country to take. It would be better not to let them back in the first place. That, of course, means being able to identify who they are and to intercept them if they try to return. Yet it is highly doubtful that our border controls are up to the task. A report yesterday from the Centre for Policy Studies disclosed that some 67,500 ships and planes are not met by overworked border staff while targets for detection and seizures are routinely missed. The National Audit Office reported recently that border points are routinely understaffed and that the troubled e-borders programme is only now showing signs of working after 12 years and £830 million spent on it.
We have also long had the equivalent of the Scandinavian no-border arrangement in the common travel area with Ireland.
There is growing concern that radicalised British Muslims returning from Iraq and Syria are flying into Dublin and Shannon and sneaking back into the UK by way of Northern Ireland. Although crossing points were often manned by the police or Army during the Troubles, passport controls have never been imposed in peacetime since partition. No one wants frontiers put up between Ireland and the UK; but nor did they want them reinstated between Denmark and Sweden.
"Psychopaths like Jihadi John and his balaclava-wearing successor claim allegiance to a state. Let them stay there"
Many of the assumptions about the movement of people that have been taken as gospel for decades will now have to be revisited. That includes the international barrier against rendering people stateless. Since this is not just a matter for the UK but for all countries whose nationals pose a threat to their security it should be possible to reach an accord to change or at least suspend treaties to recognise the new, dangerous reality. To argue otherwise is to risk a repeat of the carnage seen in Paris.
Why on earth should we not defend ourselves? After all, psychopaths like Jihadi John and his balaclava-wearing successor claim allegiance to a state. Let them stay there; we don’t want them back.
JIHADIS AND CRIMINALS OUT OF EUROPE