So far, none of the 150 Swedish citizens who have returned after joining Daesh have been convicted of crimes abroad. US President Donald Trump’s call for his EU allies to take back “their” jihadists has triggered a hot discussion in Sweden, with an array of contradictory opinions on whether to take them back or let them keep Swedish citizenship.
The government will not help Swedish citizens who have joined Daesh and warred on behalf of the terrorists in the Middle East to return home, the Social Democratic prime minister told national broadcaster SVT.
Previously, his party colleague and Foreign Minister Margot Wallström hesitated about whether to bring home Swedish citizens. Now, the prime minister has stressed that this option is not being considered.
“Sweden and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have since 2011 advised against travelling to that region. Those who still do so should not count on any consular help from Sweden”, Löfven said.
At the same time, Löfven weighed in against withdrawing the so-called “foreign fighters'” Swedish citizenship. This, he argued, would go against international law. He also admitted that there is currently no solution whatsoever for so-called “Daesh children”, that is to say, the children of terrorists left in the Middle East.
As of today, it is not illegal in Sweden to join a terrorist organisation such as Daesh, something that the Swedish government is reportedly working to rectify.
The right-wing Sweden Democrats want laws in place to punish the terrorists retroactively.
“It is important that we get an opportunity to prosecute people who are or may be dangerous to Sweden”, Sweden Democrat legal spokesman Adam Marttinen told the daily newspaper Expressen. According to him, introducing retroactive legislation “in connection with war or severe economic crisis” is fully possible.
The centre-right Moderate Party proposed that dual citizens convicted of terrorist offences should be deprived of their Swedish citizenship. This step would require a change in the constitution and was previously suggested by the Sweden Democrats.
“The background is that Sweden has several hundred people who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic state. We believe that Sweden is not equipped to receive these people if they return home”, the Moderate legal spokesman told Expressen.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the Left Party is Sweden’s only party to advocate for the state to assist the Daesh returnees in coming back to the country. Left Party legal spokeswoman Linda Snecker called this viewpoint “reasonable”.
So far, none of the 150 Daesh returnees has been convicted for crimes perpetrated abroad for lack of proof.
“There is very little opportunity to bring these people to justice unless there are preliminary investigations into them. This is necessary if you are to have access to go through, for example, their phones and social media accounts”, said senior terrorism researcher Magnus Ranstorp of the National Defence College.
By contrast, Gothenburg Police Chief Erik Nord called for the revocation of jihadists’ citizenship, claiming Sweden was being “too soft” on them.
“Revoking Daesh terrorists’ Swedish citizenship is a part of the solution. Simpler, cheaper and more effective than prosecuting them in Swedish court”, Nord tweeted. He also argued that Swedes would be deterred from leaving for the Middle East once they knew they would forfeit their Swedish citizenship.
Earlier in February, US President Donald Trump urged his EU allies to “take back” some 800 Daesh terrorists captured in the Middle East, warning that they may be released if the EU fails to find a common solution.
It is estimated that around 300 people have left Sweden to join terror groups in Syria and Iraq since 2012. Roughly half of them are believed to have returned to Sweden, while around 50 are thought to have been killed and the remaining 100 are still in the region.