18th Mar 2018

EU targets foreign fighters with sanctions

The European Union will from now on be able to freeze assets and impose travel bans on people associated with the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaida jihadist groups, even if they are not on UN blacklists.

The move, agreed by the Council on Tuesday (20 September), is primarily targeted against EU nationals.

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In particular, people trying to travel to Syria could be stopped from leaving in the first place, or from coming back to another EU country besides than the one they hold the passport of. It will also become easier for EU countries to prosecute their own nationals for terrorist-related activities.

Non-EU nationals with links to Islamic terrorism will be barred from entering the bloc. Their assets in the EU will be frozen, and it will become illegal for EU persons and entities to send them money.

Those who qualify for the restrictive measures are people who participated in the planning or perpetrating of terrorist attacks or received terrorist training from IS and Al-Qaida.

People can be listed for providing the Islamic organisations with financing, oil or arms; recruiting their members directly or through public provocations and activities in support of these organisations.

In a separate area of the new law, serious abuses of human rights outside the EU, including abduction, rape, sexual violence, forced marriage and enslavement of persons, could also put individuals and entities on the list.

The bloc set up its terrorist list after the 9/11 attacks, but until now, sanctions could only be imposed on people who were on the UN blacklist. EU countries could also create national lists.

No one individual was put under sanctions on Tuesday.

Europol estimates that more than 5,000 EU nationals have travelled to Syria. One third of them have since returned, and some 14 percent have been confirmed as having been killed.

The move to step up sanctions was driven by France.

France is the country which has the largest number of departures - 2,147 French nationals or residents have left for Syria, according to figures presented by prime minister Manuel Valls in July.

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