UK police to review law around travel to conflict zones

Amid growing fear that British Muslims are travelling to regions like Syria, Iraq and Gaza to participate in the conflict there, the UK police is set to work with the government to review a 19th century legislation to regulate mercenary activities of its citizens.

PTI| Last Updated: Aug 15, 2014, 13:04 PM IST

London: Amid growing fear that British Muslims are travelling to regions like Syria, Iraq and Gaza to participate in the conflict there, the UK police is set to work with the government to review a 19th century legislation to regulate mercenary activities of its citizens.

Discussions are on to see if the Foreign Enlistment Act 1870 needs to be reviewed in the light of fears that British Muslims are travelling to these regions to join the war effort, said Manchester Police chief Sir Peter Fahy.

"We recognise the strength of feeling in some sections of Britain`s Muslim community. There is a clear legal line but it is important that we get a consistent narrative. We will be reviewing with government if there is need to look into the 19th century legislation," he told reporters during a briefing at the Association of Chief Police Officers last evening.
Fahy, who is also the national policing lead on the UK`s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, said the issue is yet to be taken up officially.

"The Home Office is very much aware of this and are keen to try and clarify the narrative. As the conflicts become more and more chaotic and violent, that has in itself helped put off a lot of people from the idea of travelling to these zones," he added.

According to the latest Syria-related arrest figures, 29 arrests were made across the UK for alleged offences such as terrorist financing, preparation of acts to commit terrorism and attending a terrorist training camp between April and June this year.

The figure has significantly risen from 2013, wherein 25 people were arrested throughout the year.

However, there is no evidence to suggest that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or ISIS appeal is seen as credible by young British Muslims, he said.
In April, UK police had launched a campaign to warn about the dangers of travelling to Syria and the message is being reinforced for those considering travel to Iraq or any other conflict zone.

"We were very clear in that campaign that we do not want to criminalise people but prevent tragedies. We reassured concerned mothers, fathers, siblings and friends that the police would act proportionately and intervene to help."

"We are getting great support from mosques, community groups, Muslim organisations and families, we are seeing a strong unified message about the risk of travelling to conflict zones," he said.

"If people do choose to travel, they should be in no doubt that we will take the strongest possible action to protect our national security, including prosecuting those who break the law," he added.

Till August 1, over 130 incidents relating to anti-Semitism have been recorded for July 2014. This is the highest monthly total since January 2009.