One of the UK’s former anti-terror chiefs has suggested would-be jihadis should be permitted to surrender their British passports and travel to the Middle East.
Robert Quick, head of special operations (counter-terrorism) for Scotland Yard from 2008-09, said Britons who wish to go to ISIS-held territory should be allowed to do so.
Mr. Quick told the Guardian: “You have to think how do you confront it, if you have hundreds or thousands who want to go there and live that life? We should try and convince them not to go. [But] if they want to go, you have to ask the question, are we better off, if they surrender their passports and go? It’s better than them festering away here.”
Proposing a somewhat radical solution, Mr. Quick continued: “Should we say we’ll lay on charter flights to Syria; turn up with your passport and if you’re over 18, if this is the life you want, then go?”
The ex-cop’s comments come as the UK marks the 10-year anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in British history on July 7, 2005, in which 52 people were killed and more than 700 injured when suicide bombers detonated their explosive devices on three tube trains and a bus in central London.
Provoking soul searching about Britain’s progress, or lack thereof, when it comes to combatting the threat from international terrorism, the milestone is a staunch reminder of the ever-worsening struggle facing the security services of Western nations.
“We’re in a worse place [now], in a more precarious place than ever,” Mr. Quick told the Guardian.
“Ten years ago, we were dealing with relatively small numbers, who travelled mainly to Pakistan. They were engaged in conspiracies that were quite elaborate, involving plotting and communications that could be intercepted.
“Now we are dealing with large numbers, who have travelled to Syria - we don’t know how many will come back with horrible intent - and the homegrown extremists who are here. We are in a less safe position than we were then […] There are more people who are motivated, inspired or encouraged to mount these attacks.”
According to the security service, the current threat level to the UK from international terrorism is sitting at “severe”, meaning an attack is “highly likely”, and as many as 700 Britons have fled to territory controlled by the self-declared “Islamic caliphate”.
Closer to home, Global News have reported the federal government’s claims that some 150 Canadians have travelled abroad to join ISIS.
But, citing security concerns, National Defence Minister Jason Kenney refused to say exactly how many of those recruits have returned to Canada.
In light of recent terror attacks in Tunisia, Kuwait and France, however, Mr. Kenney has stressed to Canadians that the government will do their utmost to flush out and subdue “jihadist violence”.
In a recent radio interview, Mr. Kenney told the CBC: “Every intelligence agency is working very intently right now in determining whether there are other potential threats associated with these attacks. If there’s an elevated threat assessment, obviously out national security infrastructure will respond.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government recently announced in April’s federal budget that it will allocate an extra $292.6 million over five years to Canada’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies, including the Mounties, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), to combat terrorism and terrorist fundraising.