The Danish government on Friday announced a plan for combatting radicalization and extremism and slowing the stream of Danish citizens who fight in foreign wars.
The plan, which has been hinted at since July, includes a call to confiscate the passports or rescind the resident permits of anyone who fights in Syria or northern Iraq.
Besides the punitive measures, the government will also introduce new prevention strategies including a national hotline for concerned parents, a corps of ‘mentors’ to counsel at-risk individuals and the creation of a new national exit center to support those looking to leave the extremist environment.
“We will make strong efforts with preventive measures, but at the same time we will also hit hard with concrete consequences for those who continue down the wrong path. To them, I would say that if despite all of the warnings they decided to go abroad to engage in armed conflict, they are not welcome back in Denmark. We will take their resident permits. And Danish citizens will be imprisoned when they come home,” the justice minister, Karen Hækkerup, said in a press release.
At least 100 Danes have joined the fighting in Syria, with no fewer than 15 of them dying in combat. According to The Economist, Denmark has the second highest proportion of jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, behind only Belgium.
The minister for social affairs, Manu Sareen, said that stopping potential jihadists before they leave for war is key to the government’s strategy.
“We need to cut off the food chain to extremist environments and do everything we can to intervene early and precent people from becoming radicalized. We are currently seeing many young people killed in Syria or returning back deeply radicalized and posing a security risk to our society,” Sareen said.
The Danish Security and Intelligence Service (Politiets Efterretningstjeneste – PET) has warned that Danes returning from conflict abroad can “increase the terror threat against Denmark”.
In August, a Danish citizen who fought alongside Isis in Syria warned that the jihadists would soon carry out attacks within Denmark.
“Isis has said that all infidels should be battled. They should be eliminated and soon it will be Denmark’s turn,” the 27-year-old, identified as ÖA, told Politiken.
Denmark’s new anti-extremism plan also calls for increased international cooperation, including the formation of a Nordic network aimed at preventing radicalization.