To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what estimate he has made of the number of (a) British citizens, (b) British residents holding dual passports and (c) British residents holding foreign passports who left the UK in 2014 to fight for the (i) Israeli Defence Force in Gaza, (ii) Koma Komalên Kurdistan in Syria and Iraq and (iii) ISIS Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2014; and what his policy is in each such case.
20 November 2014
We do not hold data on British nationals fighting with the Israeli Defence Force: many foreign nationals (including British nationals) serve in the IDF, and also hold dual (Israeli) nationality. We do not hold data on British nationals fighting with the Koma Komalên Kurdistan in Syria/Iraq.
We believe that more than 500 individuals from the UK have travelled to Syria since the start of the conflict. It is estimated half of these have returned. We judge that a significant minority of UK extremists currently fighting in Syria are affiliated with ISIL. British citizens fighting with proscribed terrorist organisations would clearly pose a threat to the UK should they return. Such individuals are among our primary counter-terrorism concerns.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against travel to a particular place when we consider the risk to British nationals is unacceptably high. Anyone who does travel is putting themselves in considerable danger. The best way for the public to help is to donate to registered charities that have ongoing relief operations.
Those who become involved in fighting abroad can potentially be prosecuted under UK law on their return including under terrorism or other offences. Fighting in a foreign conflict is not automatically an offence but will depend on the nature of the conflict and the individual's own activities.
Any allegation of an offence will be a matter for investigation by the police. Whether an individual is arrested or prosecuted will always depend on the facts and circumstances of the case and is an operational decision for the police and Crown Prosecution Service. Safeguards are built in to our legislation and we rely on the police and Crown Prosecution Service to make sure that prosecutions are pursued in appropriate cases. Whether any specific act falls within the definition of terrorism and whether any individuals or groups have committed an offence will always depend on all facts and circumstances of the case. Prosecutions can only be sought where the Crown Prosecution Service is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence of any offence having been commissioned and that it is in the public interest to prosecute.