CAGE urges govt to allow Syria fighters to return home

Hundreds of British Muslims are fighting in Syria

After contacting at least ten British fighters trapped in Turkey because of a fear of returning home, advocacy organisation CAGE has urged the government to adjust its anti-terrorism legislation to allow them and others the right to return.

CAGE says it went into the region to locate returnees in order to assess the true story, rather than rely on tweets. They spoke to fighters who say they are waiting in no-man’s land for fear of returning home.

Here are statements from individuals who are currently stuck in Turkey:

Abu Khaled

“I have always planned to stay in the UK since leaving for Syria. But what these laws do is stop me from going back to the county of my birth and upbringing; and so I am against these laws on a matter of principle. I will also like to see my mum and friends once in a while and I can’t with these measures. The government needs to reach out to us and not treat us like criminals straight away.”

Abu Noor

“The situation in Britain sounds very similar to the one in Australia where I’m from. I’m settled here now but boy do I miss my family, food and friends. I want to be able to go back even just for a visit because anything can happen to my family and I have to be able to go and help them.”

Sign up for regular updates straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter and stay updated on the latest news and updates from around the Muslim world!

CAGE is now urging the government “to give these fighters the chance to share the knowledge gained in Syria to contribute to the fight against global injustice and terrorism, instead of leaving them stranded and vulnerable.”


“These are normal average guys, who felt a moral obligation to assist ordinary Syrians against the Assad regime,” said CAGE spokesperson Amandla Thomas-Johnson.

According to CAGE, a little over 100 British men left the UK to fight against the “oppressive regime” of Bashar al-Assad, at a time when this was supported by the British government.

CAGE has argued in its report “Blowback – Foreign Fighters and the threat they pose,” that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that blowback from Syria or Iraq will occur in the UK.

However, it says the possibility of violence in the UK – due to a draconian and non-consultative approach to counter-terrorism that relies on blanket measures such as passport revocations and detention without trial – continues to increase.

CAGE reiterated that dialogue, dignity and respect are essential when dealing with returning fighters.

“CAGE advocates an approach to returning fighters that allows them an amnesty, the choice to resettle with their families, and access to resettlement programmes such as those set up in Denmark,” said CAGE spokesperson Amandla Thomas-Johnson.

“It is critical that any policy on returnees is formed after consultation with them, instead of hearsay. Policy must be formed based on real life cases, instead of inferences from social media activity.

“As mentioned by Richard Barrett former MI6 Global Counter Terrorism chief, returnees from Syria have an important role to play in helping reintegrate their peers into society. A domestic policy that ostracises as opposed to integrates will only increase radicalisation.”

Moazzam Begg, CAGE Outreach Director, added: “I was imprisoned with several young British men who’d returned from the fighting in Syria. Instead of being further traumatised and marginalised these men should have been allowed to talk to their peers and explain what they had witnessed and the reasons they returned. The fact that fighters have returned from Syria should work in their favour, not against them.”

Over the past year the government has cracked down on British Muslims who go on “jihad” to Syria. It says they are joining armed extremist groups who preach hatred and kill and could pose a threat to this country if they are allowed to return.

The vast majority of prominent Muslim scholars in this country have also urged British Muslims not to go and fight in Syria.

Add your comments below

Previous articleISIS executes senior Hizb ut-Tahrir member in Syria
Next articleISIS’ “With us or against us” logic is dangerous