Denmark plans to deprive jihadists' children of their citizenship

A child looks through a chain linked fence at al-Hol displacement camp
A child looks through a chain linked fence at al-Hol displacement camp Copyright REUTERS
By Sandrine Amiel with AFP
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It's an issue that is a major headache for other countries in Europe, too.


Children born abroad to Danish jihadists will no longer receive Danish citizenship, the immigration ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

"As their parents have turned their back on Denmark, there is no reason for the children to become Danish citizens," Immigration Minister Inger Stojberg was quoted as saying in a statement.

The proposal was laid out by the minority government after striking a deal with its populist ally, the Danish People's Party.

While the bill must still go through parliament, the government expects it to pass easily. "It's hard for me to believe that some parties in parliament are not willing to protect Denmark," the minister told press agency Ritzau.

No date has been set for the vote.

"Punishing children for their parents' sins"

In a statement, UNICEF Denmark warned the country could end up "punishing children for their parents' sins" in its attempt to protect itself from Danish jihadists, disregarding the best interest of the children.

UNICEF Denmark told Euronews the organisation was worried the proposed measure might be in breach of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, even if a full legal assessment still has to be conducted.

Marie Dose, a French attorney who has handled a number of cases of jihadists' children in courts, said she did not know of other legal precedents in Europe.

'Forty jihadists with links to Denmark in Syria'

Since 2016, it has been a criminal offence under Danish law to have fought in conflict zones for a terrorist group.

The courts have already convicted 13 people for having joined or tried to join a terrorist organisation.

Nine of those were stripped of their Danish nationality and expelled from the country. The others could not be stripped of their citizenship as they did not hold dual nationality.

Under the new rules, holders of dual nationality can lose their Danish citizenship by simple administrative order.

There are around 40 jihadists with links to Denmark in what used to be territory held by the so-called Islamic State group in Syria, 10 of whom have been captured, according to the government.

The exact number of Danish children born there remains unknown.

How to deal with jihadists' children: a major headache for Europe

The fate of foreign fighters with the so-called Islamic State group and their families has become a major headache for European countries since the fall of its caliphate in Syria.

Even when it came to jihadists' children, European countries have varied greatly in their approaches.

The UK government recently faced criticism after the baby of an exiled IS bride died while the pair were in a Syrian refugee camp.

READ MORE: Shamima Begum's mother asks UK government to show 'mercy' for daughter


Shamima Begum, 19, left London with her two school friends in 2015 to join the jihadist group. She returned to the spotlight last month when she took part in media interviews saying she wanted to come home.

But despite her public pleas, the UK government stripped the teenager of her British citizenship. Her son Jarrah was born in February but died in a Syrian hospital a few weeks later.

In France, the government has repatriated several orphan French children from Syrian camps in recent weeks.

READ MORE: France repatriates five young children from camps in Syria

However, the 'case-by-case' policy implemented by the government has also drawn criticism by human rights advocates, who say all French children should be entitled to protection rather than just orphans.


READ MORE: Islamic State bride's daughter, 3, arrives back in France

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