Jihadists face losing Dutch nationality

Netherlands may withdraw national status of radicals with dual citizenship

The mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, revealed yesterday that of 33 young local jihadists known to have joined the Syrian rebels since the conflict began in 2011 seven had already been killed. Photograph: Freek van den Bergh - Pool/Getty Images

The mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, revealed yesterday that of 33 young local jihadists known to have joined the Syrian rebels since the conflict began in 2011 seven had already been killed. Photograph: Freek van den Bergh - Pool/Getty Images

Tue, Jul 15, 2014, 01:00

As Europe grapples with the threat posed by young Muslim jihadists radicalised by the conflict in Syria, the Netherlands is to introduce a tough new law under which dual-nationals who recruit, train or travel to fight there can be stripped of their Dutch citizenship.

As the first 250 refugees from the fighting between rebel groups and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad arrived in Amsterdam yesterday, the justice minister, Ivo Opstelten, said he believed the law, which has already been backed by the cabinet, would have “a significant deterrent effect”.

The minister said the legislation – which had been drawn up after consultation with the security service, AIVD, which has consistently warned about the security threat posed by returning fighters – would come into effect as a matter of urgency once it had been cleared by the council of state.

However, in a briefing document for parliament, he confirmed that the legislation could only be applied to suspects holding dual nationality, because under international law it was forbidden for any country to render an individual stateless.

Counterproductive claim

As the draft law was announced, the head of the International Centre for Counter-terrorism, based in The Hague, took the unusual step of warning that “talking tough” to jihadists and their families could be counter-productive – and entrench radicalisation rather than prevent it.

Peter Knoppe said he was in favour of “greater transparency” in relations between the police and local authorities, as well as between local authorities and the parents and families of teenagers suspected of talking to recruiters and planning to take the established route to Syria through Turkey.

The problem with talking tough, said Mr Knoppe, was that “the doubters who have already been recruited or are in the process of becoming involved will think they have no way out. They will become convinced they have no choice. The job is to convince them they always have a choice.”

Fatal consequences

That policy of increasing transparency also has the aim of making clear – particularly to teenagers, both male and female – that while travelling to Syria may seem like a principled humanitarian choice, it’s a road that regularly has fatal consequences.

That message is being conveyed in the bleakest possible terms. The mayor of The Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, revealed yesterday that, of 33 young local jihadists known to have joined the Syrian rebels since the conflict began in 2011, seven had already been killed.

He said six had returned and were now living under close surveillance, while three youngsters under 18 had been stopped in the early stages of their journeys and had their passports confiscated.

It’s understood that another 10 teenagers – including an 18 year old from Maastricht who converted to Islam and planned to travel to Syria with her new husband – have also been refused passports.

“Those who disagree with the decision to refuse them a passport are free to challenge it through the courts,” said a police spokesman.

Two Dutch suicide bombers have been killed, one in Iraq where he detonated a rucksack full of explosives, and the other in Syria, where he set off a car bomb.