French MPs adopt bill to block minors from leaving for jihad

PARIS (AFP) - French lawmakers adopted a draft law on Thursday (Oct 8) that will require minors to have permission from their parents or legal guardians before leaving the country in a bid to curb departures for jihad in Iraq or Syria.

At the moment, children in France only need their identity card or passport to travel, making it easy for them to fly to Turkey and make their way to Syria to join the ranks of the Islamic State group (IS).

The bill notes that the law, in place only since 2013, is "inadequate" in the face of "a large number of French minors who have gone to combat zones in Iraq and Syria."

Parents can currently request that their children be blocked from leaving the country, but this is of no use if they are unaware of their plans.

In June, a French mother tried to sue the state for not preventing her minor son from leaving to Syria, but lost the case as she had not requested he be stopped.

Lawmaker Meyer Habib noted that jihadism had become "a sort of fashion for directionless youth", making the law all the more urgent.

Government's parliamentary secretary Jean-Marie Le Guen welcomed the bill but said it would be difficult to implement in Europe's passport-free Schengen zone and could create complications for children of divorced or separated parents.

Lawmakers also adopted a measure to allow prosecutors, who have been alerted by police, social services or education officials, to declare a ban on leaving the country.

According to recent government figures, more than 1,800 French citizens or residents of France have been involved in jihadist networks. Around 500 nationals are thought to be in Syria or Iraq, 133 of which have died.

A hotline set up for families to report radicalisation in April 2014 has drawn more than 3,000 alerts, 23 per cent of which concern minors - most of them girls.

This week, France also launched a series of television, Internet and newspaper adverts in which parents and siblings of those who have lost children to the jihad recount their tales.