France seizes passports of would-be jihadists

Several French citizens have had their passports confiscated after allegedly planning to travel to Syria to fight jihad. It's the first time the measure has been used and the government says dozens more French nationals will soon have their documents seized.

France seizes passports of would-be jihadists
French jihadists appear here in a video calling on followers to attack their home country. Photo: AFP

The right to remove passports was introduced as part of a raft of new counter-terrorism laws in November aimed at curbing the number of French citizens leaving to join jihadist groups in the Middle East.

A security source said the six French were "imminently" about to travel to Syria. 

Their passports and identity cards have been confiscated for six months, after which the order can be renewed.

"There will be more," said Prime Minister Manuel Valls when asked about the case on Monday.

Some 1,400 people living in France have either joined the jihadist cause in  Syria and Iraq or are planning to do so, Valls said last month.

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said another 40 individuals will also have their passports confiscated in the coming weeks.

"There are currently six administrative bans on leaving the country that have already been signed, and around 40 that are being prepared," Cazeneuve told reporters.

The concern in France about what to do about jihadists leaving and returning to the country has been heightened since the January terror attacks.

According to polls the French public want more repression and would rather see jihadists locked up rather than integrated into society.

The public would presumably be happy with the kind of sentence that saw a jihadist jailed for seven years after only spending 12 days in Syria.

Out on the streets of Paris, many people The Local spoke to also want to see courts get tough on extremists.

“We have to make them suffer,” Rachid, a café manager said.

"Today prisons are like a holiday camp. Inmates should not be able to have any kind of contact with the outside world,” he added.

Pierre Gauthier, aged 51 said: “We have to extend their sentences and establish prison terms without minimum sentences.”

The country’s Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told The Local and other foreign reporters recently that French culture demands that “those who cross the line are punished. Full stop.”


French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria

The families of several children and wives of French jihadist fighters in Syria have filed lawsuits against France's top diplomat over his refusal to let them come to France.

French families sue government over children of jihadists stuck in Syria
Two detained French women who fled the Islamic State group's last pocket in Syria sit with their children . AFP

The suits, filed in July and September, accuse Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian of “failing to provide aid” to people in “danger” at camps operated by Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in northeastern Syria.

The complaints were filed with the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), which hears cases over alleged misconduct by former or serving ministers.

It is the latest legal challenge to France's longstanding opposition to allowing the children and wives of suspected jihadists in Syria or Iraq to return home.

The government, which says it considers requests on a case-by-case basis only, has brought back just 17 children since March, many of them orphans.

Critics say the policy exposes innocent victims of the war, many of whom have suffered serious trauma during the fighting and coalition bombardments, to long-term psychological risks.

“The policy of 'case by case' keeps more than 200 children and their mothers exposed to inhumane and degrading treatment, and at risk of death,” the lawyers said

They note that Kurdish officials are also pressing European governments to repatriate citizens who went to fight for the Islamic State group in Syria, as well as their family members.

“It's a political choice not to save these children and mothers being held arbitrarily,” one of the lawyers, Marie Dose, told AFP.

Asked about the lawsuit, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a statement that France remained “fully mobilised so that each situation is handled with the children's interests in mind.”

“Our priority is to ensure the return of the most vulnerable orphan or isolated children,” she added.

A similar lawsuit was filed against France last May at the European Court of Human Rights, by the grandparents of two children stranded with their French jihadist mother in Syria.

The boy and girl, who were born in Syria, are among an estimated 500 children of French citizens who joined the Islamic State's so-called “caliphate” before the jihadists' last Syrian redoubt was overrun in March.