France’s 'anti-jihad' hotline gets results
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A hotline launched by France in an effort to stop its citizens travelling to Syria to join Islamist groups engaged in the country’s civil war has already received numerous calls, ten days after going live, France’s Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
A total of 24 “relevant” reports have been made to the hotline by members of the public since it launched on April 29, the ministry told the AFP news agency. In five of these cases, a person has left France to fight in Syria, it said.
The hotline and an accompanying Internet site were part of a number of "anti-jihad" plans launched by the French government last month after figures revealed that hundreds of the country's citizens and residents have travelled to Syria to take up arms against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
People are encouraged to call the number if they suspect a friend or family member is considering travelling to the country or is in danger of becoming radicalised.
Those reported to the hotline comprised eight women and 16 men, aged between 14 and 34, said the ministry, and came from 16 different departments around France.
“For each relevant case, we immediately initiate a monitoring process by state services in the region,” it added.
An estimated 285 French citizens fighting in Syria
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve unveiled some 20 measures in April designed to stem the flow of French citizens to Syria, ranging from the increased monitoring of Islamist websites to the threat of revoking French nationality.
France already has among the most comprehensive surveillance programmes and anti-terror laws in Western Europe.
But the high number of French youths travelling to Syria, potentially to fight alongside hard-line Islamist groups, has led to fears that they could return radicalised and ready to carry out attacks on French soil.
Cazeneuve said in April that an estimated 285 French citizens were currently fighting in the Syrian civil war, another 120 were “in transit” to Syria while 100 had already returned to France after fighting.
The hotline is now set to be reinforced with extra staff members, the Interior Ministry told AFP.
“The service is designed to be ramped up as needed,” it said. “It is useful in terms of security and in terms of supporting the people involved.”