Danish officials have admitted that a number of individuals who travelled to fight in the Middle East are welfare claimants.
The New York Times reports the Danish authorities as having admitted that around 145 Danes have travelled to Syria or Iraq to fight for militant groups since 2012, with officials identifying a number of citizens as having undertaken the journey while in receipt of state disability pensions.
“It is a huge scandal that we are paying out money from the welfare funds in Denmark to people who are going to Syria and elsewhere in the world to undermine [the] democracy that we have been fighting for for hundreds of years,” said Troels Lund Poulsen, Denmark’s labour minister.
The problem is not new. Breitbart News reported how at least thirty-two jihadists were paid over 400,000 Danish Krone (£45,000) in unemployment benefits while fighting for the Islamic State in 2015.
This revelation led to Justice Minister Mette Frederiksen calling for Danish nationals joining terror organisations abroad to be charged with treason.
“If one travels from Denmark and joins the Islamic State and fights against Danish soldiers, then I think that you have committed treason,” she declared. “I want to ensure that the legality is in order, but that is my clear political signal.”
At one time, Denmark was second only to Belgium, home to “Europe’s jihadist capital”, as a recruitment ground for Islamic extremists.
Treatment of returning jihadists was notoriously lenient, with jihadists directed to counselling and job schemes rather than prison.
“Our main principle is inclusion” explained Aarhus University’s Preben Bertelsen in 2014. “What motivates these young people is not that far from the motivation the rest of us have: a decent life. For them, joining ISIS is fighting for utopia, fighting for a place where they’re wanted.
“We’re not stigmatising them or excluding them. Instead, we tell them that we can help them get an education, get a job, re-enter society.”
Following high-profile terrorist atrocities in France and Germany, the Scandinavian country has adopted a somewhat harder line, and the Danish Parliament has even passed a resolution stating that Danes should not become minorities in Denmark – albeit by the narrowest of margins.