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Jihadists face being made stateless

Controversial new powers to cancel the passports of UK nationals who travel abroad to fight for the Islamic State (IS) terror group are to be included in a counter-terrorism Bill to be tabled in Parliament this month, David Cameron has said.

The Prime Minister said the enhanced security measures - which will also allow border guards and airport police to seize the travel documents of suspected would-be jihadis - were needed to counter the "existential threat" posed to Britain by extremists.

Civil liberties campaigners accused the Government of "dumping suspect citizens like toxic waste" and ministers are braced for a series of legal challenges over what critics say would be a breach of an international ban on making people stateless.

But legal experts - including former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who dismissed earlier plans as a "non-starter" - suggested that the terms of the new restrictions were sufficiently tightly drawn to comply with international law.

They were applauded by the chair of the Commons home affairs committee, Labour MP Keith Vaz, as "tough, decisive measures which send out a powerful message".

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Opposition would examine the proposals but warned that more needed to be done to tighten border controls and reinstate scrapped community anti-radicalisation programmes.

The legislation, unveiled by Mr Cameron in a speech to the Australian parliament, will block individuals from returning from Syria and Iraq to the UK for at least two years unless they comply with strict measures.

They could include being escorted back to Britain and then facing prosecution, bail-style reporting conditions, deradicalisation courses or being subjected to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure orders (Tpims).

Any attempt to sneak back into the UK clandestinely after passport cancellation would be punishable by up to five years in prison.

Airlines will be ordered to comply with a "no-fly list" of individuals barred from travel to the UK because of suspected involvement in terrorist activities and to use interactive electronic data systems capable of receiving instructions to offload or to screen any passenger. Any airlines which bring banned individuals into the country could face civil penalties, including the removal of the right to land in the UK.

Downing Street hopes the changes could be in place by January after reaching agreement with the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition Government - with plans to beef up Tpims to allow the state to dictate where in the UK individuals subject to an order can live among ideas absent from the announcement.

At a press conference with Australian PM Tony Abbott following his speech, Mr Cameron said : "Successive governments have come to the view - and I agree with that view - that when you are facing an existential challenge and a challenge as great as the one we face with these Islamist extremists, we need additional powers as well as simply the criminal law.

"We believe we need an additional set of powers in order to keep the country safe over and above what the criminal law allows, and I think it is very sensible that we do that."

The move was strongly criticised by rights group Liberty, which said it would be counter-productive.

Director Shami Chakrabarti said: "Dumping suspect citizens like toxic waste, abdicating your responsibilities to the international community, is a very strange way of promoting the rule of law.

"Summary powers to 'stop and seize' passports at airports will prove just as divisive and counter-productive as the infamous 'stop and search' powers that preceded them.

"When will our governments learn that there are no short cuts to our security? It needs to be built on intelligence, evidence and justice, not speeches, soundbites and ever more new laws."

Mr Cameron said he had considered the implications for civil liberties and for other states but decided the change was " necessary to keep the British public safe".

Mr Grieve said the PM "has clearly listened to the points that were raised" about previous proposals to prevent people returning to the UK at all.

"As long as the proposals that are being put forward envisage a system for controlling the return of those who want to come back here ... then I don't think the suggestions that have been put forward present a problem though I have no doubt there may be some legal challenges."

Mr Vaz said: " Finding an urgent solution to this growing number of people going to fight in countries such as Syria and Iraq should be a top priority.

"We must remove all incentives to travelling for those who want to perpetrate acts of terror."

One member of his committee - Labour's David Winnick - called for it to be allowed to scrutinise the legislation before it was put to Parliament as it raised "various serious implications".

Ms Cooper said: "W ith half of the fighters who have gone to Syria having already returned, the Government should be introducing mandatory de-radicalisation programmes as a priority.

"Our border controls are simply not picking people up, and no new orders will change that. Only this week a suspect on bail managed to flee with his passport, reportedly to Syria.

"And much more should be done to prevent radicalisation in the first place. The Government cuts to community-led programmes mean those parents and community leaders desperate to stop young people from being taken in by the warped ideology and lies of Isil feel they have no support."

Commons Speaker John Bercow criticised Mr Cameron's decision to announce the proposals in Australia first .

"I like announcements of policy to be to the House of Commons first," he told Sky News when asked about the Prime Minister's speech.

"Announcements should not be made in isolation and detached from parliamentarians. Statements should be made to Parliament with MPs having the chance to probe, to scrutinise, to question, to challenge the government of the day, including all its ministers."

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