Denmark may officially support the opposition forces in Syria, but that does not mean that Danes can legally travel to Syria to fight alongside the rebels.
“The government will not accept young people going out to fight for militant Islamist groups and being radicalised in other countries. That makes them a potential threat to Danish society when they come back,” Justice Minister Morten Bødskav says.
While it is legitimate for Denmark and Danes to support the rebels in Syria, Bødskov says they should not travel to the country.
“It’s fine to help people in Syria – you should not, however, go down there. If you are in doubt as to how you can help, you can call the police or foreign ministry and I’m sure there are people there who can help make sure that the support is channelled to the right humanitarian organisations,” Bødskov says.
Today’s move comes three months after the Danish Security and Intelligence Agency PET raised the issue of some 45 people it said had taken part in the fighting in Syria. Since then that figure has risen to 65, five of whom are said to have been killed.
The justice minister and ET are now to introduce rules which will include serious sanctions for those who travel to Syria to fight.
“Young people should realise that it is dangerous to go down there and that they risk criminal cases when they come back. They will also be in PET’s, the police and other authorities’ searchlight,” he adds.
The strategy to be used involves, among others, the Tax Authority, social services, police and other relevant authorities.
Asked whether the threat of losing social security payments is likely to keep people from travelling to Syria, PET Chief Jakob Scharf is sceptical.
“No I don’t think that in isolation it will be a deterrent. It is an attempt to tell the young people who have plans to travel to Syria that society will be making a major effort – not just that PET will be monitoring them, but so will a long list of other authorities,” Scharf says.
He adds that such travels can also affect their future ability to travel, as PET shares information with other intelligence agencies both in Europe and elsewhere.
“There is a close and highly developed cooperation in which we exchange information about these people,” Scharf says, adding; “We have already seen instances in which people from Denmark have been unable to get into other countries”.
Bødskov says that Danish legislation allows the prosecution of people who have been fighting for militant Islamists in Syria, despite the fact that the Danish government supports the fight against the Assad regime.
“These young people should not have the misconception that because what is going on is happening in Syria, it cannot be illegal, or that it is too complicated for the authorities to investigate cases, Bødskov concludes.
FACEBOOK – Follow Politiken’s News in English
Edited by Julian Isherwood