Threat level continues to be 'substantial'
The threat level in the Netherlands continues to be 'substantial'. This means that there is a real chance of an attack in the Netherlands. The picture of a complex and real threat applies throughout the West. Europe takes account of the possibility of complex and large-scale attacks as well as more small-scale and simple attacks. This is mentioned in the National Terrorist Threat Assessment of the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism sent by Minister Van der Steur to the House of Representatives today.
As things currently stand, the crash of the Russian Metrojet aircraft possibly caused by a bomb attack is an example of this complexity. If it appears that the Egyptian branch of ISIS is indeed responsible for the crash, this means that, apart from the West, Russia has also become an explicit target of this group.
The fight in Syria and Iraq and the stream of jihadists travelling to these countries play a prominent role in the threat against the Netherlands. An average of 5 jihadists leave the Netherlands every month. Up to 1 October 2015, a total of around 220 jihadists have left the Netherlands. Around 40 jihadists have returned so far. The number of jihadists from the Netherlands who died in the war in Syria and Iraq is very likely 42. There are currently around 140 persons in the conflict zones.
A growing number of Dutch nationals in Syria and Iraq are promoted within the jihadist groups that they joined. Some Dutch nationals have joined ISIS sub-groups which focus on carrying out attacks in the West. Their presence and any resulting contacts with other persons who are actively involved in the planning of attacks further contribute to the threat.
Action programme implemented
The 38 measures within the 'Integrated Approach to Jihadism' Action Programme are the answer to this jihadist threat. The intensity and priority of the use of certain measures may vary, depending on national and international developments with respect to the threat. In the past period, for instance, the focus was on risk reduction with respect to persons whose exit was prevented or unsuccessful and who pose a potential threat. Moreover, partly in response to recent attacks with firearms in Europe, investigations into trafficking of illegal firearms and the possession and use of automatic firearms have been intensified. In the past few months, efforts were also made to stop extremist speakers requiring a visa who incite hatred and violence and contribute to radicalisation and polarisation.
Since the end of 2013, around 150 passports have been flagged, so that these passports can be declared expired or an application for a new passport can be refused. This concerns passports of persons who have already left the country as well as passports of persons who are suspected to leave the country. Moreover, around 90 social benefits paid to recognised jihad travellers have been discontinued since 2013. Furthermore, child protective measures are taken if a minor is suspected to leave the country. For instance, 58 jihadism-related cases involving children have been investigated by the Child Care and Protection Board. A total of over 80 criminal investigations into around 110 suspects are being conducted in the Netherlands. In the coming period, the court will give judgment in a number of these terrorism-related cases.
Attention to prevention
The results of the efforts aimed at the prevention of radicalisation become visible. The focus is on the creation of a resilient society, a targeted intervention in radicalisation processes and the prevention of new followers.
Involved citizens can count on support. The Radicalisation Family Support Centre (Familiesteunpunt Radicalisering) was set up in October. Staff members of this support centre assist parents and family members and offer knowledge and instruments to deal with family members who have radicalised. The first family support programmes were started in October. Moreover, the exit facility (Exits) offers programmes for jihadists who are open to alternatives (who regretted the choice they made) in order to reintegrate into society outside the jihadist network. Exits has been available since October 2015 for handling applications for an Exit programme. Both the support centre and Exits operate independently and are non-governmental organisations.
At a local level, efforts are made to strengthen the integrated approach to jihadism in municipalities and local institutions. For instance, the Expertise Unit for Social Stability (Expertiseunit Sociale Stabiliteit, ESS) offers practice-based expertise aimed at the prevention of radicalisation and tensions and will, in the next six months, start cooperating with those municipalities where (urgent) signs are identified. Moreover, during the period between January 2015 and September 2015, almost 300 teachers and professionals in 13 municipalities were trained to deal with radicalisation. With the establishment of the Dutch Training Institute for the Prevention of Radicalisation (Rijksopleidingsinstituut tegengaan Radicalisering, ROR), further investments are made in increasing the knowledge and expertise of first line professionals.
A coherent implementation of these repressive and preventive measures will create a mixture that allows all services and organisations involved to make every effort to face the current threat. Jihadists threaten our safety and cause tensions in our society. Terrorists claim the Islam in order to achieve their goals through violence. Together with parents, imams, community police officers, teachers and youth workers, the government does everything in its power to prevent radicalisation in the Netherlands.
Abuse of asylum procedure unlikely
Both the infiltration of jihadists in the known travel routes to Europe taken by migrants and the abuse of the asylum procedure involve risks of discovery from a terrorist's point of view. This makes it unlikely that these channels are frequently used by terrorist groups. Despite a single sign of concern, there are no confirmed cases of jihadists sent to Europe via the flow of refugees. Intelligence and security services are nevertheless alert to signs of abuse of the asylum procedure by terrorist organisations. It also remains possible for individuals in asylum procedures to be susceptible to radicalisation.
That is why efforts have been made throughout the organisations cooperating in the immigration process to raise the safety awareness among staff members of these organisations, including the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) and the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND). This allows for an early detection of any signs of potential radicalisation, recruitment or jihadist intentions.
It remains important to hold developments against the light of the hardening social climate and increased breeding ground for extremism. Despite a number of worrisome incidents, there is no evidence of any structural violence against asylum seekers' centres in the Netherlands.