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UK plans to seize passports of Britons with suspected terror links

LONDON: Police will be given temporary powers to seize passports at UK borders of Britons they suspect are travelling abroad to fight with terror groups. It is one of the new measures announced by the Prime Minister to deal with the threat to the UK from Islamist militant groups fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Islamic State (IS) has taken over large areas of the two countries in recent months and a number of Britons have joined it, pledging allegiance to the insurgents. David Cameron said IS was a direct threat to every European nation, and claimed around 500 British nationals had gone to the region to fight in the conflicts there.

It is feared some could return to the UK with battlefield experience and try to carry out terror attacks at home. The PM’s announcement comes just days after Britain’s terror threat level was raised to severe - the second highest - meaning an attack was highly likely.

He said the Government would “work up plans” for discretionary powers to exclude British nationals from the UK. And he also told MPs it was ‘abhorrent’ that British citizens who pledge allegiance elsewhere were able to return to the UK and pose a threat to national security.

He said airlines will have to give UK authorities information on passenger lists to help identify Islamist fighters and also comply with security screening requirements. And if the companies do not agree, then their flights will not be able to land in Britain, the PM added.

He said for extremist suspects already in the UK, the Government will introduce stronger locational constraints on them under TPIMs (Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures). These will include enhanced use of exclusion zones and through relocation powers.

Cameron said, “Adhering to British values is not an option or a choice. It is a duty for all those who live in these islands so we will stand up for our values, we will in the end defeat this extremism and we will secure our way of life for generations to come.”

The measures were announced after late-night Coalition talks, where there were thought to have been several disagreements. The Lib Dems were keen to maintain civil liberties but the Government was under pressure to act after Britain's terror threat level was raised.

They were also under pressure from Labour to return to control orders under which suspects are kept under virtual house arrest.