MOSCOW, September 22 (RIA Novosti) – A new anti-terrorism measure banning citizens from traveling to certain “no-go zones” will be introduced to the Australian parliament on Wednesday as a groundbreaking response to the rise of foreigners joining the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, the Guardian reported on Monday.
The Australian law in question, the foreign fighters bill, would “enable the minister for foreign affairs to declare that a particular locality shall be in effect a no-go zone, so that there’ll be a prohibition on Australian traveling there and if an Australian travels there, then they would’ve committed an offence,” attorney general George Brandis was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The law would be used sparingly and focused on populations controlled by threatening groups such as the IS. Travelers with legitimate purposes, such as humanitarian missions or journalism would still be allowed to travel to destinations deemed “no-go zones.”
The proposed law is Australia’s response to some 60 of its citizens traveling to Iraq and Syria to join jihadist groups such as the IS. Some 20 fighters who traveled abroad have already returned to Australia, according to security agencies.
The measure comes just after Australian authorities arrested 15 IS affiliates suspected of plotting an act of terrorism on September 18. Some 800 police were involved in the country’s largest counter-terrorism operation. Omarjan Azari, one of the individuals arrested, planned to commit a crime which would “shock, horrify and potentially terrify” Australian civilians. Authorities suspected the act to be a beheading.
According to Professor George Williams of the University of New South Wales, the bill is still an extreme measure.
“Making it an offence to travel to those places unless you can demonstrate a reason is problematic … it’s an overreach. It demonstrates a too-ready willingness to go beyond what is needed and to introduce measures that are not consistent with Australia’s basic democratic values,” Williams was quoted as saying by the Guardian.
Although Williams is afraid Australia could take the law to the extreme, Professor Kent Roach of the University of Toronto praised the law calling it a “novel” idea.
The UK, France, and Canada are also battling an increase in citizens traveling abroad to join IS militants. British Prime Minister David Cameron released new anti-terrorism measures on September 1, but rejected a suggestion from the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to take on travel restrictions similar to Australia’s.
On September 15, France’s parliament mulled over a new anti-terrorism bill allowing authorities to confiscate passports from suspected jihadists preventing them from leaving the country. France also joined in US-led air strikes on September 19 targeting IS militants attacking Iraq.
Meanwhile, Canada created new criminal offenses in 2013 targeting those leaving the country with terrorist intentions.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is scheduled to attend United Nations (UN) talks in New York on Tuesday which will address the issue of foreign fighters joining the IS. Abbott will show his support for a US-drafted resolution requiring UN member states to pass laws preventing the rise in foreign IS supporters.
The IS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014 the jihadist group launched an offensive in Iraq conquering territories in both Iraq and Syria.