U.K. authorities are taking new steps — some focused on women — to prevent Britons from heading to Syria and partaking in the fighting there.
“We are increasingly concerned about about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict,” the New York Times quotes Helen Ball, a senior counterterrorism officer for the Metropolitan Police, as saying on Thursday. “We want to ensure that people, particularly women, who are concerned about their loved ones are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening.”
Ball said the efforts aimed at encouraging individuals to share their concerns with authorities are not meant to “criminalize people,” but rather to “prevent tragedies.”
As part of the new campaign, officers plan to distribute leaflets at British ports warning of the risks of entering Syria, the Times reports. Officials will also advise individuals who want to offer humanitarian assistance in the three-year-old civil war against traveling to the country, asking them to donate to aid groups instead.
The British efforts come amid alarms bells being sounded recently by counterterrorism officials in the United States and several European governments. The officials fear that Western citizens joining combat in Syria will return to their home countries radicalized and trained in militant tactics.
Dutch Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk on Wednesday registered his country’s concerns to that end. Two Dutch nationals are believed to have carried out suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria, Reuters reported.