COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark will fast-track legislation allowing people with dual citizenship who have gone abroad to fight for militant groups like Islamic State to be stripped of their Danish nationality, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Monday.
European states are trying to accelerate a plan to shift thousands of foreign Islamic State militants out of Syrian prison camps and into Iraq, as a fresh conflict in Syria has raised the risk of jihadists escaping or returning home.
“There is a risk that the Kurdish-controlled IS-camps in the border area will collapse and that foreign warriors with Danish citizenship will move towards Denmark,” Frederiksen said in a statement.
Authorities believe at least 158 people from Denmark have joined militant Islamist groups in Syria or Iraq since 2012, about 27 of whom remain in the conflict zone. Twelve of these are believed to be imprisoned.
All 27 are Danish nationals but it is unclear how many also have citizenship of another country.
Europeans comprise a fifth of around 10,000 Islamic State fighters held captive in Syria by Kurdish militias which are now under heavy attack by Turkish forces. If the militias redeploy prison guards to the front line, there is a risk of jail-breaks.
The proposed new law, which has broad support among lawmakers of different parties, would allow the government to strip fighters abroad who also hold another nationality of their Danish citizenship without a court order.
The law would not apply to single nationality Danes who could be left stateless.
“These are people who have turned their backs on Denmark and fought with violence against our democracy and freedom. They pose a threat to our security. They are unwanted in Denmark,” Frederiksen said.
“The government will therefore do everything possible, to prevent them from returning to Denmark.”
Other European countries have also said they will strip dual nationals who joined Islamic State of citizenship.
They are reluctant to try such foreign fighters at home, fearing a public backlash, difficulties in collating evidence against them, and the risk of renewed attacks by militants on European soil.
Reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard; Additional reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Catherine Evans