ISIS Members Returning to the UK Debate

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Department: Home Office

ISIS Members Returning to the UK

Andrea Jenkyns Excerpts
Monday 18th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Home Office
Luke Hall Portrait Luke Hall (Thornbury and Yate) (Con) - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:32 p.m.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered E-petition 231521 relating to ISIS members returning to the UK.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. The petition has been signed by more than 580,000 people—more than any other petition that the Petitions Committee has received in this Parliament. It calls on foreign fighters who travel to Iraq and Syria in order to join the terrorist organisation Daesh—also referred to as ISIS—to have their citizenship revoked. It has gained extreme momentum in recent weeks following the publicity surrounding the case of Shamima Begum, her efforts to return to the UK and the subsequent saddening news of the death of her infant child. Despite the actions of the baby’s mother, Jarrah was a British citizen guilty of no crime. I mourn his death. The case of Shamima Begum is complex and highly emotive, and it is still ongoing. The Minister will have access to realtime details of it, so I will make no further mention of it. Rather, I will discuss the petition text in the broad context in which it was originally started.

The terrorist threat facing the United Kingdom and other western nations comes not just from one front. Even as we debate this matter here today, details of a shooting on a tram in Utrecht are still coming through. I am sure that the thoughts of the whole House will be with everybody affected in the hours ahead. The horrendous atrocities in Christchurch on Friday serve as a reminder that terrorists claim to operate in the name of many different races and religions, on behalf of many groups and ideologies, and in different regions across the world. That is a timely reminder that a single, catch-all approach may not be the most suitable means of dealing with all terrorists. I will therefore use this opportunity to consider the petition text—the proposal that restricting the return to the UK of anybody who has decided to join a terrorist group, and removing their citizenship and passports, would help keep the UK safe from terrorists and their actions.

The Home Secretary recently stated that as many as 900 people who have been deemed to be a concern to our national security have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join terrorist organisations. About 20% of those 900 have been killed on the battlefield, 40% remain in the region and 40% have returned to the UK. That means that about 360 people who are deemed to be a security concern have travelled to Iraq and Syria and since returned. Of those 900 people, more than 100 have been deprived of their British citizenship.

Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con) - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:33 p.m.

More than 11,000 of my constituents have signed the petition. I believe that enemies of our country should not be allowed back into it. Does my hon. Friend agree that British citizenship should not be taken for granted, and that the decision not to allow ISIS members back into the country will act as a deterrent to others who are thinking about betraying our country?

Luke Hall Portrait Luke Hall - Hansard
18 Mar 2019, 4:34 p.m.

My hon. Friend gets to the heart of the matter. The fact that so many of her constituents signed the petition demonstrates the strength of feeling in many communities. Later, I will look in a bit more detail at whether and when it is right to remove citizenship. I thank her for that intervention.

The petition text states that a ban on all foreign fighters returning to the UK would send a message to others that membership of terrorist organisations is not tolerated. That is representative of a concern raised by many people that, in recent years, our democracies have taken too lax an attitude in dealing with extremism, allowing people the freedom to act in unacceptable ways that contravene traditional British values. Many people who have contacted me since this debate was scheduled worry that a precedent is being set, and that people are allowed to act as they please with no fear of consequence, resulting in an environment in which people feel able to join terrorist groups without any retribution.