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Dutch MPs voted on Tuesday to strip dual nationals of their Dutch citizenship if they join terror groups such as the so-called Islamic State group (ISIS/IS) to fight as jihadists, officials said.
The move comes in the wake of attacks in Paris last year and in Brussels in March, carried out by European extremists thought to have returned home after joining radical organisations in Syria or Iraq as foreign fighters.
The lower house of parliament approved the controversial bill to revoke the Dutch citizenship of people with dual nationality, if they are deemed to have joined foreign terror groups like IS or Al-Qaeda — even if they have not been convicted of any crime.
The Dutch decision is the latest move as countries across the globe grapple with the problem of how to deal with Islamists leaving to join groups like IS, which boasts between 27,000 and 31,000 foreign fighters from 86 countries, according to a report released in December by the New York-based Soufan security think-tank.
It also comes as French President Francois Hollande has back-peddled on constitutional reforms which included plans to strip convicted terrorists of their French nationality, sparking a fierce debate over the risk that it would create stateless persons.
“These jihadists can pose a threat to national security when they return to the Netherlands,” the Dutch justice ministry said in a statement.
“Therefore, even without a conviction on a terror charge, the justice minister can decide to strip a person of their nationality, if that person is deemed to have joined a terror organisation,” ministry spokesman Wiebe Alkema told AFP.
The bill now has to go to the upper house in the coming weeks for a final thumbs-up before becoming law.
The ruling would not apply however to those people who only have Dutch nationality, Alkema added. Under international conventions, countries are not allowed to intentionally make people stateless.
Justice Minister Ard Van der Steur first proposed the changes to the law late last year, saying they were necessary to stop jihadists returning to the Netherlands.
“The scrapping of Dutch nationality becomes possible as soon as somebody in a foreign country joins a group on a list of terror organisations” such as IS or Al-Qaeda, the justice ministry statement said.
“Once approved, the person will be declared an undesirable foreigner. It will prevent them from returning to the Netherlands or the Schengen zone,” it added.
But the bill has caused discord in parliament, with some leftist parties arguing it could lead to even greater radicalisation.
Any decision to scrap nationality can however be challenged before a Dutch court — and should it rule in favour of the decision, “it can always be appealed before the Council of State,” the Netherlands’ highest administrative court, the ministry said.
According to past estimates by the Dutch secret services, 200 people from the Netherlands including 50 women have joined IS in Syria and Iraq.