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Sweden wants Dutch backing for returning ISIS jihadists

Sweden wants backing from the Netherlands to set up an international tribunal to deal with jihadists who have fought for ISIS. But the issue remains a thorny one for Dutch authorities.

Published: May 17, 2019, 9:45 am

    The Hague

    The Dutch daily NRC on Wednesday published an interview with Sweden’s home affairs minister Mikael Damberg who told the paper that he wanted to create support for an international tribunal. Damberg said that after talks with Dutch justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus he felt there was “room” for further discussions about how a tribunal would operate.

    Sweden plans to hold a summit in Stockholm on June 3 where the Netherlands, Britain and France will be able to “exchange views” according to Damberg, “within the European family”.

    Sweden is struggling with the problem of what to do about its nationals who fought for ISIS and now want to return home.

    In the Netherlands, there are 55 Dutch adults, of whom three-quarters are women, living in Syrian Kurdish camps or in detention, together with 85 children, the Dutch security service AIVD said earlier this month.

    Some 300 Dutch nationals have travelled to the ISIS caliphate, of whom 90 have died and 60 returned to the Netherlands.

    The Dutch government remains adamant that it will not act to bring Dutch jihadis back to the Netherlands, despite a plea by the children’s ombudsman earlier this year to help the children to return.

    Dutch jihadis can currently only return to the Netherlands if they manage to get to a Dutch embassy or consulate entirely on their own.

    MPs from across the political spectrum have meanwhile called on junior Justice Minister Mark Harbers to explain why police figures on call-outs involving asylum seekers did not specify there had been 31 allegations of murder and 79 suspected sex offences.

    The figures were published earlier this week and showed “fake” asylum seekers who come from so-called safe countries, namely Morocco and Algeria, were responsible for almost half the 4 600 incidents requiring police intervention.

    While most cases involved petty crimes such as shoplifting or pickpocketing, police also registered cases of physical abuse, threatening behaviour and a further 1 000 incidents listed as ‘other’.

    Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Thursday morning that this total included 79 potential sex crimes, including 47 cases of sexual assault, five allegations of child abuse and four alleged rapes plus a string of other violent offences.

    A police spokesman told the Telegraaf on Thursday afternoon that the ministry had had the full figures for “several weeks” but they claim that they had been provided with incomplete figures

    The Telegraaf said at least 1710 such cases made it to court, but there is no breakdown for what crimes or what the conviction rate was. Christian Democrat MP Madeleine van Toorenburg said the minister should come clean as soon as possible.

    A pattern is emerging of hiding important information, she said, referring to an earlier report by a government scientific organisation which, she said, also included “a rose-tinted picture of the problems and the crime”.

    She has called on the minister to come up with the full figures by next week. In total 45 asylum seekers were told to leave the country because of criminal activities last year but this figure only applies to asylum seekers whose country of origin would entitle them to seek asylum, the report said.

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