Austria Tells Terrorists Looking to Return: You’re on Your Own

By Reuters
March 6, 2019 Updated: March 6, 2019

VIENNA—Austria said on March 6 it would not help repatriate any citizens who fought for ISIS and other terrorist groups, as countries across the West wrestle with how to deal with returning terrorists.

Hundreds of people are believed to have left Europe to fight for ISIS in Syria and Iraq. With ISIS down to its last shred of territory, several have asked to come home.

The cabinet has sent a bill to parliament on consular assistance that makes clear that it can be denied to citizens if there is a threat to public order, the government said in a statement.

“There will in future be no assistance for people who join a terrorist organization,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a conservative governing in coalition with the far-right Freedom Party, told journalists.

“Anyone who leaves Austria to murder, torture or act against religious minorities and those who think differently elsewhere in the world has no right to Austria’s help,” he added. He stopped short of saying they would be barred from returning.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month urged Britain, France and Germany to take back more than 800 captured ISIS fighters and put them on trial.

But European countries have resisted pressure to take in citizens who had sworn allegiance to groups determined to destroy the West.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat coalition partners this week agreed a plan to strip some Germans who fight for ISIS of their citizenship.

Britain last month revoked the citizenship of a teenager who had left London when she was aged 15 to join ISIS in Syria.

Shamima Begum was found in a detention camp in Syria, and her fate has fueled a dispute over the ramifications of leaving a 19-year-old mother with a jihadist fighter’s child to fend for herself in a war zone.