The threat from terrorism in the UK, related to conflicts in Syria and Iraq, is of great concern. So too is the number of people being radicalised or drawn into terrorist related activities at home and abroad. Together we can help stop this.
What are the risks from terrorism in Syria?
There are many terrorist and extremist groups fighting in Syria. The creation of a so-called Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and the Islamist extremism and export of terror on which it is based, is a direct threat to UK security. Terrorist groups attack opposition members as often as they attack the Assad regime. Terrorist groups target UK nationals, including for kidnap. Your family may face ransom demands to secure your freedom. The long standing policy of the British Government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British Government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage-taking. The situation on the ground is changing all the time as groups change their structure and allegiance. People seeking to travel to engage in terrorist activity in Syria should be in no doubt that the Police will take the strongest possible action to protect national security, including prosecuting those who break the law.
What could going to Syria mean?
The Assad regime now has a law stating that the punishment for illegally entering its territories is a prison sentence of 5 to 10 years. As well as endangering your own life by travelling to Syria, you might put ordinary Syrians at risk by being a drain on their limited medical resources, food and shelter. President Assad uses the presence of UK nationals in Syria to support the claim that his regime is fighting foreign terrorists. This means that travelling to Syria may unintentionally help Assad. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to Syria. Anyone who does travel, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger. Both the regime and terrorist groups have attacked humanitarian aid workers and the moderate opposition. You are very likely to come into contact with terrorist groups and you may get drawn into their activities.
What about aid convoys?
- Charity law and laws against terrorism, bribery and corruption apply to those who deliver humanitarian aid directly. Cash above a certain limit that has not been declared may be seized at the airport by the Border Force.
- People who have travelled to deliver aid within Syria have been denied access to cross the border, or significantly delayed. There is also a risk of being denied exit. Charities unknown to the Free Syrian Army could be considered as hostile.
- Direct delivery of aid involves very high logistical costs. Your time, money and personal commitment can deliver greater support to the Syrian people by sending supplies through established charities and international relief organisations.
- People who have travelled to Syria have witnessed traumatic events, and may experience post traumatic stress disorder (including symptoms of stress and anxiety, anger, and disturbed sleep). Anyone who experiences these symptoms should consult their GP.
Communities and families are asked to contact police about anyone they feel may be vulnerable. This includes anyone who is showing signs of becoming radicalised, who may have returned to the UK from Syria or may be planning to go to Syria or another conflict zone. Trust your instincts and help us prevent tragedies. We would rather take lots of calls which are easily explained than receive no calls at all. Call your local police on 101 (non emergency number). They will help you gain access to support and advice.
For further information and advice on travel to foreign countries please click here for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Are you concerned about someone travelling to, or returning from Syria or another conflict zone? To access relevant support and advice contact your local police on 101