Netherlands raises terror threat level

Netherlands raises terror threat level

The extent of jihad tourism from the Netherlands to Syria and other areas has increased quickly. There is a risk of jihad travellers acquiring expertise and battle experience in the conflict areas and posing a threat when they come back to the Netherlands.

They can return to the Netherlands highly radicalized, traumatised and with a strong desire to commit violence. In addition, more signs of radicalisation of small groups of youth are coming in. There has also come more room in many countries in North Africa and the Middle East for jihadist networks to manifest themselves. Some of these groups aim at western targets , sometimes also in Europe. Because of these alarming developments, an attack against the Netherlands or Dutch interests abroad has become more conceivable in recent times. The Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security has therefore raised the threat level from limited to substantial. In order to identify and contain the security risks as much as possible, operational services such as the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service and the police have raised their alertness and intensified their efforts. Other western countries are also concerned about increased jihad travel and take measures.

The threat lies with the jihad travellers who have returned. They are a potential security risk upon return because of their expertise and battle experience. The extent of jihad tourism has risen quickly. Where it first concerned a few and later dozens of them, now nearly 100 people travelled from the Netherlands to various countries in Africa and the Middle East, but mainly to Syria. It concerns many hundreds in the whole of Europe.  Many join jihadist fighter groups.  In addition, jihad travellers may pose a threat to western interests in the conflict areas themselves and they may encourage other sympathizers from the Netherlands to follow them.

Signs have further been received over the last months of increasing radicalisation among small groups of youth in the Netherlands. The increased number of jihad travellers is one of the indicators for it. Further radicalisation to being prepared to use violence appears to go very fast sometimes. It should be noted at the same time that the attention of politics, government and society for the risks of radicalisation has decreased over the past years, because little radicalisation had been seen for quite some time. The scene of battle in Syria, which is easy and simple to reach, has changed this.

Finally also the developments in the various countries of North Africa and the Middle East are a source of great concern. A complex democratisation process was set in motion in several countries.  The downside of that is that jihadist organisations can manifest themselves rather freely there as well now. The previously extremely repressive security services are no longer capable or prepared to fight those organisations.

Step up of the approach

Based on the new threat scenario of the Dutch National Coordinator for Counter terrrorism, the minister of Security and Justice, who is responsible for the coordination of counter terrorism, has made steps to contain the risks as much as possible.  This is supported considerably by the set of instruments which was developed for the Dutch counter terrorism strategy for 2011-2015.  Possibilities have been created to counter travel to jihadist training camps and battle areas and to timely identify and contain the risks of returned people. Intelligence and investigation, apprehension and prosecution, immigration law measures and administtative policy at a local level are concerned. The effort in all these areas has been intensified in the meantime.

Intelligence and investigation
The services have intensified their actions regarding the issue of jihad tourism and are mobilizing extra people and resources for detection and surveillance. Also the police are watchful and have stepped up systematic inquiries in this area from regional units. Reporting by the municipality and its local partners will be crucial besides that. All participating partners bring information together on the risk persons in the Counter terrorism Infobox to utilize every effective intervention possibility.


Apprehension and Prosecution
The Public Prosecutor has sufficient legal instruments to take criminal action together with the police and in alignment with the General Intelligence and Security Service, where possible.   Although collecting evidence in international battle zones is problematic, everything is put at stake to provide the burden of proof in specific cases.


Immigration law measures
The people exiting the country (mostly) have the Dutch nationality.  In the cases in which the person exiting does not have the Dutch nationality and therefore is an alien, immigration law applies. A specific option is to pull the residency permit if there are specific indications for assuming that the alien poses a risk to national security.

Administrative policy
Besides the criminal and immigration law options, the mayor can start a specific approach of a high-risk person and his environment in the local triangle. The approach is directed towards reducing the threat posed by the person involved, for instance because that peron radicalises, mobilises or recruits others. Intelligence and security services and the police will make specific information on people availiable for this purpose to the local administration.

Besides this individual approach, local administration aims for cooperation with local communities from a shared concern about radicalisation and jihad tourism of young people. Important is also the specific utilisation of the means offered by the integration policy of both the ministry of Social Affairs and Wellbeing and of the municipalities such as promoting citizenship competencies at schools.

The increase in people exiting the country and the risk of those who are returning is a pan-european phenomenon. An increased exchange of information and knowledge and international cooperation are important therefore. Police and security services cooperate closely internationally in this area.

Source: Dutch government


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