It has been revealed that as many as 450 would-be British jihadis have returned to the U.K. and have not been detained when re-entering the country.
Returning jihadis pose a “significant” risk to the safety of the U.K. according to the British police, a risk that has been brought into sharp focus following the recent Paris attacks and the aftermath in Belgium.
Nevertheless, rather than facing prosecution and possible imprisonment, some of the failed jihadis are instead enrolled on a de-radicalisation course. Part of the Government’s Prevent programme, the course aims to change the beliefs of those involved by countering terrorist ideology and challenging those who promote it, but not all those returning are enrolled.
Authorities estimate that as many as 700 British jihadis, men and women, were sufficiently radicalised to want to reach Syria in order to enlist with Islamic State forces fighting the government of that country. Some 450 of that number were either intercepted by authorities on the Turkey-Syria border before being deported back to the UK, or got cold feet and returned of their own accord, reports The Daily Mail. Of that number only a handful have been prosecuted.
One suspected extremist released without charge in Britain after being stopped at the Syrian border is 21-year-old Waheed Ahmed. Along with eight relatives he was intercepted by Turkish police who feared he planned to join Islamic State forces.
Mr Ahmed, whose father is a Labour councillor on Rochadale Borough Council, is now a politics student back in his home town. Campaigners say more should be done to stop those like him from enjoying their freedom upon returning to Britain. Eddie Reid, 67, a campaigner for the British military charity Help for Heroes, said:
“Everyone is shocked that Ahmed and his relatives went off to join ISIS and on their return they are able to waltz around as if nothing had happened.
“They wanted to join a terrorist organisation whose sole aim is to wipe out the West and yet he is able to return and resume his university studies.”
Councillor Shakil Ahmed, who claims he thought his son was working in Birmingham not travelling through Turkey, said:
“My son is a good Muslim and his loyalties belong to Britain. If I thought for a second that he was in danger of being radicalised, I would have reported him to the authorities.”