Minister says Britons fighting with Daesh are ‘legitimate targets’

A file photo of Daesh fighters (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2017

Minister says Britons fighting with Daesh are ‘legitimate targets’

LONDON: British nationals who left to fight for Daesh abroad should be “eliminated,” said newly appointed UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson.

The senior Cabinet minister suggested in an interview with the Daily Mail that armed forces were deliberately targeting British militants in Syria or Iraq.

“I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country,” he said. “We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat.”

Williamson said militants in Libya, Iraq and Syria were plotting attacks in the UK. It is believed that more than 800 UK citizens have gone to fight for Daesh, including teenagers, women and young families.

In response to Arab News, a spokesperson for the Defence Ministry said that British nationals who left to fight with Daesh have made themselves “a legitimate target” and should be “brought to justice, in the UK or within the region”

Other ministers also share the same view. In October, International Development Minister Rory Stewart also said “Their deaths (British Daesh fighters), like that of executioner Jihadi John, will protect the UK.”

However, Associate Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University, Dr. Imran Awan, told Arab News that this is not the solution and instead would bread more extremists.

“It’s all about rehabilitation,” Awan said, explaining how the UK should follow Denmark’s program of rehabilitation, which has been successful in the past.

Denmark, with the second-highest number of foreign fighters per capita, decided on a policy of not penalizing citizens who have returned from abroad after engaging in militant or extremist activity. The program offers counselling and assistance instead of jail time.

Like other criminals, Awan says that suspected militants should have the right to a fair trail and be prosecuted within the British legal system.

“Anyone who commits a crime must be arrested and imprisoned, but there are programs that the government could follow to deradicalize these individuals and insure that they are no longer a threat to society,” he said.

Abuse and ‘vilification’ of migrants on the rise as borders close

Italy’s Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini welcomes migrants upon their arrival at an airport near Rome. (AFP)
Updated 15 November 2018

Abuse and ‘vilification’ of migrants on the rise as borders close

  • Medecins Sans Frontieres adviser Sahraoui called for the world’s most powerful nations to adopt “fact-based” migration policies
  • Hadj Sahraoui said Europe and the US must address the causes of displacement, instead of criminalizing migrants

LONDON: Vilification of migrants as criminals, rather than people needing protection, by politicians and the media is making them more vulnerable to abuse, said a frontline humanitarian worker.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, a humanitarian affairs adviser with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) who has rescued migrants from the Mediterranean Sea, instead called for the world’s most powerful nations to adopt “fact-based” migration policies.

“We have seen European countries shut down their borders, criminalize organizations like MSF, and close ports,” she said, describing how MSF had to remove its boats — which rescued thousands from the Mediterranean until 2016 — from the sea.

“We have lost every sense of decency ... It has become acceptable for people to die at sea.”

A key reason that deaths in the Mediterranean increased in 2018, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), is because of reduced search and rescue capacity off the Libyan coast, with some 1,600 people dead or missing by the start of September.


Hadj Sahraoui spoke on migration and slavery on the second day of the Trust Conference in London that started on Nov. 14 and has drawn more than 600 delegates from the worlds of activism, civil society, law, government and business.

Europe’s migration crisis peaked in 2015 with an influx of well over 1 million people. While annual arrivals have since tumbled, EU members have feuded over how to share the burden and support for anti-immigrant parties has surged.

MSF said it suspended migrant rescues in 2017 after the Libyan coast guard fired at one of its boats and because of pressure from Italy to sign a Code of Conduct requiring that Italian police officers be on its boats.

With no MSF boats on the sea, there are now no witnesses to the deaths, Hadj Sahraoui said.

“The Mediterranean Sea has never been as dangerous,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation ahead of the conference.

“There is a disconnect between the reality of what migration is and how it is presented in the media ... Vilification of asylum seekers and aid agencies is across the world.”

Hadj Sahraoui said that Europe’s moves in the direction of Australia’s hard-line immigration policy — where asylum seekers intercepted at sea are processed in detention centers in the Pacific — have strengthened trafficking networks.

“Criminal gangs are flourishing,” said Hadj Sahraoui, who has met young girls from Nigeria in European safe houses who were sold for sex when they thought they had been recruited as nannies and hairdressers.

“People are being tricked into undertaking the journeys, with offers of jobs in Libya or Europe and promise of education. They are incurring huge debts in the process and are under pressure to reach Europe.”

Transit centers

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has agreed to set up transit centers on its border from which migrants refused asylum could be sent back, amid talks with Austria and Italy to shut down the Mediterranean route from Africa to Europe.

Politicians like US President Donald Trump are using anti-migrant sentiments and people’s “fears and emotions” to get re-elected, said Hadj Sahraoui.

“The migrant caravan in the US is shown as a bunch of criminals,” she said, referring to plans to send some 7,000 US troops to the Mexican border to block thousands of Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the US.

Similarly in Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban romped to re-election in April after what critics said was a campaign demonizing refugees, followed by legislation to prosecute rights groups who help them.

Hadj Sahraoui said Europe and the US must address the causes of displacement, instead of criminalizing migrants.

“Media is describing migrants and refugees as a storm,” she said. “A fact-based policy on migration is missing.”