Sunday

28th Feb 2021

EU commission backs passport confiscation of jihadist suspects

  • Plans are afoot in several member states to confiscate the travel documents of suspected jihadists (Photo: afagen)

The European Commission has endorsed national plans to seize travel documents of suspected jihadists.

A handful of governments have either enacted laws to confiscate the documents or are in the process of doing so. The plan is to stop EU nationals from travelling to Syria or Iraq to fight alongside Islamic militants.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Up to 5,000 EU nationals are foreign fighters, says Europol (Photo: FreedomHouse2)

“The commission would support this type of initiative if it were taken by member states,” EU commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said Friday (16 January).

The Brussels executive says police need to update the EU-wide Schengen information system (SIS) with the changes to passports’ status.

The system alerts border guards, police, customs officials, visa and judicial authorities throughout the border-free Schengen area of anyone not supposed to be in the EU or suspected of having committed a crime.

The European commission’s political support comes on the heels of a number of national initiatives to clamp down on potential foreign fighters as police conduct widespread anti-terrorism raids.

Over two-dozen people were arrested on Friday in German, French, and Belgian police sweeps, reports the Associated Press.

The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last week and the deadly Belgian stand off on Thursday evening is adding pressure on governments to react.

Among the anti-jihadist hopefuls is Denmark whose parliament on Friday debated a bill proposed by the justice ministry in December.

The Danish bill allows police to withdraw passports, refuse a request to issue a passport, and impose a travel ban.

Passports can be held up to one year at a time with the possibility of renewing the ban should new evidence emerge that the person remains a security risk.

Anyone suspected of the intention to participate in a militant tour abroad and who is considered to pose a serious threat to public security in Denmark or other states falls under its scope.

The bill includes a fast-track provision on judicial oversight for anyone who contests having their passports taken in the first place.

It also entitles those whose travel documents were seized to apply for a temporary passport in case of funerals or work.

If passed, the bill will become law on 1 March.

France has also stepped up its laws.

On Wednesday, the government passed a decree that would prevent people from leaving the country to join IS’ ranks.

French anti-terror laws call for severe penalties for those found guilty of condoning or provoking terrorism with fines of up to €100,000 or seven-year jail sentence if it is done online.

In Germany, existing legislation allows authorities to seize passports of nationals intent on joining any number of Islamic militant training camps.

But Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas has since extended the offence to national ID cards in their crackdown against foreign fighters.

The ID cards, under the German proposal, could be held for up to three years.

The UK, for its part, introduced a counter-terrorism and security bill last November.

It allows authorities to seize and temporarily retain the travel documents, including passports, of anyone suspected of an “involvement in terrorism-related activity”.

The UK government says it is needed because current powers do not allow authorities to cancel a passport when someone is about to leave the country.

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

EU condemns Slovenian PM's harassment of journalist

Slovenia's populist prime minister Janez Janša attempted to discredit a Brussels reporter after she published a critical article about the state of media freedoms in the country. The European Commission condemned the PM's language - but refrained from naming him.

News in Brief

  1. EU leaders restate defence 'autonomy' plan
  2. Rights group exposes Ethiopia massacre
  3. US carried out airstrikes against Iran-backed militia in Syria
  4. Malta closes investigation into journalist murder
  5. Dutch parliament calls China treatment of Uighurs genocide
  6. Spain fined €15m by ECJ over data failures
  7. Belarus: Anti-government protester jailed for 10 years
  8. German charged with spying for Russia in Bundestag

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  3. CESIKlaus Heeger and Romain Wolff re-elected Secretary General and President of independent trade unions in Europe (CESI)
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersReport: The prevalence of men who use internet forums characterised by misogyny
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!

Latest News

  1. Armenia 'coup' shows waning of EU star in South Caucasus
  2. 'Difficult weeks' ahead, as variants spread across EU
  3. EU top court advised to strike down Hungary's asylum policy
  4. Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency
  5. Is EU poised to solve child labour in 'green' batteries?
  6. The trap of spreading ideas while attacking them
  7. Who are the EU's new Russian deplorables?
  8. Afghan asylum family beaten in Greece, set adrift at sea

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us