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Britain Revokes Citizenship of Nationals Who Join Syria War

Home Office reported to be cracking down on British nationals involved in Islamist terror in Syria.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 12/23/2013, 10:13 PM

Rebels clash with Syrian government forces
Rebels clash with Syrian government forces
AFP photo

Britain has been revoking the citizenship of its nationals who join the Syrian civil war, several British news outlets reported Monday.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism first broke the story, reporting that Home Secretary Theresa May has revoked the citizenship at least 37 Britons since May 2010. 

An explicit link has not been confirmed between the rise in revocations and Britain's crackdown on its nationals fighting in the bloody conflict.

Media outlets have juxtaposed the two, however, leading some analysts to believe that Britain's goal is to prevent its nationals from returning home - and bringing fundamentalist Islam with them. 

The Bureau notes that May told members of Parliament last week, "There are people who will choose to go and fight in Syria from the UK, and not just from the UK [but] from other countries in Europe and around the rest of the world and who will then return to their country of origin, that is, where they have nationality."

"Obviously there are a number of options that can be taken in certain circumstances in relation to the deprivation of citizenship."

Britain's Home Office declined to comment on the specific reasons for the rise in citizenship revocations.

It did state, however, that "citizenship is a privilege, not a right, and the Home Secretary will remove British citizenship from individuals where she feels it is conducive to the public good to do so."

Citizenship in the UK can be revoked without notice, and can take years of legislative appeals to reverse. 

For now, the Home Secretary is limited to using the right to revoke citizenship on individuals with dual nationalities; she cannot make an individual "stateless."

The Home Office is reportedly trying to change that restriction, however. The Independent adds that May has also been attempting to amend Britain's citizenship laws further, allowing her to remove the citizenship of British nationals who have renounced their previous citizenship but are accused of acts “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests” of the UK.

A former senior official also reported to the outlet that there are at least 240 British nationals estimated to be currently fighting in Syria.

The move appears to be the latest in a series of steps Britain has undertaken to reduce its involvement in the Syrian civil war. Earlier this month, Britain and the US revoked funding for Syrian rebel groups. 

The foreign national problem is not a new one; British Muslims have been flocking to the war from all sectors of society. 

The Daily Mail reported Monday that a 19 year-old private school student may be among the latest to join the fighting, and speculates that he may have been recruited by Al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS).

In addition, Al Qaeda officials have been suspected of reaching out specifically to British university graduates, according to that report. 

Britain's Muslim women have also been joining the rebel forces - marrying Islamists in the name of a global Jihad - as revealed earlier this year. 

Meanwhile, Lebanese news outlet The Daily Star reported Monday that another British citizen has appeared in a recent video, alleging he is from the Free Syrian Army (FSA). 

While the video is one of several depicting British citizens involved in the conflict - which has mushroomed since 2011 from a regional clash to an all-out Islamic Holy War - the video sparks particular interest for investigators because of the man's regional accent, according to the Star.

The video has been taken as a striking illustrative example of the breadth of foreign national involvement in the conflict, as more and more Europeans have also become involved in the fighting.