Denmark announces end to consular assistance for its extremist fighters

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said the country owed ‘absolutely nothing’ to citizens who joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq

German Islamic State detainees and their families arrive at the Tegel Airport in Berlin Germany, November 14, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
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Plans announced by Denmark to withhold consular assistance from citizens who travelled abroad to fight for extremist groups including ISIS in Syria and Iraq represent a new stiffing of Europe’s reluctance to take back fighters from conflict zones.

The announcement came days after Turkey began to send back foreign fighters to their countries of origin.

The first wave of deportations was made up of almost two dozen foreign ISIS volunteers under its control, including British, Belgian, French, German and US citizens.

Announcing the measure, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod tweeted: “We owe absolutely nothing to foreign fighters who went to Syria and Iraq to fight for IS (ISIS).”

"This is why we are now taking measures against the access of foreign fighters to consular assistance by the foreign ministry and Danish representations abroad," he said.

The decision would require parliamentary approval. According to Danish news agency Ritzau, consular assistance usually consists of prison visits and discussions with local authorities about detention conditions.

Mr Kofod told Ritzau that the measure, if approved by parliament, would apply to all foreign fighters who travel to join ISIS “or other terrorist movements”.

"Denmark should not be forced to help people who turned their backs on us, represent a threat to Denmark's security and fight against everything that we defend," he said.

Opposition politicians called the announcement a slippery slope of abandoning citizens rights.

"It is not because we have any sympathy for what they have done. But basically, it is true that one is innocent until proven otherwise, said Peder Hvelplund, a spokesman for the Unity List.

Denmark said last month it would strip extremist fighters with dual nationality of their Danish citizenship to stop them from returning to Denmark.

In September, the government said it thought 36 extremists had travelled from Denmark to combat zones.

Of the total, 10 held a Danish residence permit which the authorities took away, and 12 Danish citizens had been imprisoned.

In Germany, a woman with suspected ties to ISIS was taken into formal custody on Saturday, the day after she arrived in Frankfurt from Turkey.

Known only as Nasim A., she was expelled from Turkey along with another woman and detained on arrival in Germany.

The woman, who is a German citizen, is accused by the Federal Prosecutor of having travelled to Syria in 2014 to live in ISIS territory.

She married an ISIS fighter in early 2015 and later settled in Iraq, but was arrested by Kurdish security forces after returning to Syria with her husband in 2019.

Earlier in the week, Turkey also deported a German man and his family with suspected extremist connections.

Authorities in Berlin said the man was arrested on arrival on Thursday.