CARROT AND STICK

This Dutch politician is threatening ISIL wannabes with no more government benefits

The Netherlands has an intriguing piece of legislation in the works to stem recruitment by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the West. Until Aug. 15, members of the Dutch public can comment online on a new bill, which proposes cutting social security and student-grant payments to any citizen who plans to join a terror group or marry one of its members.

Social benefits in the Netherlands, widely known to be generous, require cumbersome administration when they need to be stopped. The proposed law would give the government the power to instantly cease payments as soon as proof surfaces that a recipient has left the country and joined ISIL. At least 160 confirmed (link in Dutch) Dutch residents have left the Netherlands to join terrorist movements in either Syria or Iraq, according to a Nov. 2014 report by Dutch intelligence agency AIVD.

And if ISIL-sympathizers return to the Netherlands, the same bill would also protect their right to have social security benefits reinstated. In mid-June, the Dutch counterterrorism agency NCTV said 35 such people had left ISIL and returned from Syria to the Netherlands (link in Dutch).

The bill was drafted by the Dutch minister for social affairs, Lodewijk Asscher, whose reputation is already strained among young Dutch Muslim people. Asscher says it is a means of curbing travel to ISIL strongholds, like Raqqa, Syria, as well as keeping government funds from trickling into ISIL’s hands. After the period of public review, the bill will be considered by the Dutch Council of State, the country’s highest governmental review body.

To prevent extremists from traveling to Syria, other Western countries have taken up measures with somewhat more stick and less carrot.

In May, the UK’s Metropolitan Police service blocked a 16-year-old young woman’s plans to flee to Syria from her home in London after an undercover operation revealed that she intended to marry an ISIL member. That same month, German, Swiss, and Turkish authorities cooperated to prevent an 18-year-old French man from leaving Europe to join ISIL in Syria. He was intercepted by police in Istanbul (link in French), detained in Geneva, and eventually extradited to France. Such interceptions, however, hinge on reports of intent and involve police force.

Last year, former US Congressman Frank Wolf, a Republican from West Virginia, proposed a bill that could give a 20-year prison prison sentence to anyone traveling without permission to a “country of conflict concern.” Wolf’s bill died, but this past April, representative Rob Wittman, also a Republican from West Virginia, revived it for review in a congressional committee. In March, the German cabinet approved a similar bill.

Back in the Netherlands, the mainstream media has not reacted much one way or the other to Asscher’s proposal. As for the public’s response, only two people have thus far used the digital forum to comment.

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