LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron said today he will force airlines to share flight-lists with security services and give police the power to confiscate passports as he set out Britain’s response to the rise of Islamic State.
In a statement to Parliament, Cameron also said the government will look at how it can restrict the movements of suspected terrorists in Britain and stop those who are British nationals returning to the U.K.
“What we need is a targeted power to exclude British nationals from the United Kingdom,” the prime minister told lawmakers in London today. “We need to address any potential gap in our armory to keep our country safe.”
Britain raised the terrorism threat level to “severe,” the second-highest level, on Aug. 29 as a result of new intelligence from Syria and Iraq. The rating means an attack is “highly likely,” but that there’s no intelligence about a specific plot. The government is still drawing up detailed proposals to stop fighters returning to carry out attacks in Britain, Cameron said.
On Aug. 20, Islamic State released a video of a masked militant, apparently with a British accent, beheading the U.S. journalist James Foley. Security services on both sides of the Atlantic are working to identify the man and Cameron has asked officials what else they could do to prevent young Muslims becoming radicalized and traveling to conflict zones.
Cameron said today at least 500 people have traveled from the U.K. to fight in Iraq and Syria. He said 700 had traveled from France and 400 from Germany.
While the government has the power to revoke a passport, police are currently unable to exercise it when they encounter someone at the border whom they suspect of planning to travel to a war zone, the prime minister said. Police will get the power to confiscate travel documents at the border while investigations are carried out, Cameron said.
Cameron also said guidelines requiring airlines to share flight data with security services will be formalized, and those who fail to comply won’t be allowed to land in Britain.