Syria crisis: UK police urge Muslim women to report relatives planning to join war

Critics argue police-led campaign will criminalise people after counter-terrorism chiefs launched the unprecedented appeal

Muslim women in the UK are being urged to report family members they believe are planning to join the war in Syria by counter-terrorism officers hoping to reduce the number of men leaving Britain to fight against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Workers from the Prevent Counter-Terrorism Scheme, the Charity Commission and other groups will meet at Scotland Yard today for the launch of a campaign to encourage others to prevent their loved ones from travelling to Syria.

Other events are also being held across the country, and leaflets highlighting the risks of going to the Middle Eastern state will be handed out at ports.

The leaflets contain the number of the UK's anti-terrorist hotline, which relatives are asked to ring if they suspect family members plan on travelling to Syria.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball, national coordinator for counter-terrorism at the Metropolitan Police, said: "We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict.

"We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening.”

But the aunt of British teenager Abdullah Deghayes, who was killed in Syria after leaving the UK in January, insisted the police-led drive would simply "criminalise" people. Amina Deghayes said while she welcomed any steps taken by the authorities to help prevent men travelling to join the conflict, she had not heard of anything "helpful or useful" in today's announcement.

Abdullah, 18, from Brighton, is believed to have been killed in a gunfight in Kassab in Latakia province earlier this month.

Read more: My son was the martyr of a just cause, says father of British teenager

"If the steps are to speak to the guys before they leave, I think people already have - they do not need the Government to tell them that," Ms Deghayes added.

She warned that families are already urging their loved ones not to fight in the country, but too often their appeals fall on deaf ears.

"In the case of my nephew, he ran away. At what point would we speak to him? I am not being negative; maybe the actual details of the proposals are more useful than that, but at the moment I haven't heard anything helpful or useful - it would be better than criminalising them, which is the only thing that is going on."

Abdullah Deghayes is believed to have been killed earlier this month Abdullah Deghayes is believed to have been killed earlier this month Ms Deghayes said the threat of prison for those considering returning from Syria was also counter-productive.

"Even if one of them was to consider coming back, they will have to think 'Am I going to prison?' Fair enough, that may be a consequence of their actions but we have to think of the implications. They are not middle-class thinkers and always thinking of all the possible consequences."

The number of people arrested for Syria-related offenses has risen from 25 in the whole of last year to 40 in the first three months of this year, and security chiefs believe 400 men may have left Britain for Syria over the last two years.

Ms Ball stressed the initiative was not about criminalising people. “It is about preventing tragedies,” she said. “We want to inform those who wish to genuinely help the Syrian cause how they can do so safely and legally."

But critics of the campaign have argued it must be community-led because of the lack of trust in the police.

Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said it was unlikely that parents would report suspicions about their children to the police, who “are not the Samaritans, they are the first step in the criminal enforcement process”.

"This needs to be addressed at a peer group level, include partnerships with social media and have the full engagement of the communities affected. They hold the key. Young people need to be persuaded that if they go to Syria they may end up dead."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg backed the police initiative and warned that the return of radicalised fighters from Syria was "now one of the biggest security threats we face as a country".

"I don't think we should under-estimate the gravity of this now," he said during his weekly phone-in on LBC radio.

"The security threat to us as a country - on British streets, British towns, British cities, British communities - from people going to Syria and coming back radicalised with violent intentions is now one of the biggest security threats we face as a country."

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Market Administrator (1st line Support, Bloomberg, Broker)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Market Administrator (1st line Support, Trade Fl...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

Data Support Analyst (Linux, Solaris, Windows Server, Reuters)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Data Support Analyst (Linux, Solaris, Windows Se...

Helpdesk Support Engineer (Windows, MS Office, Exchange)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Helpdesk Support Engineer (Windows, MS Office, E...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition