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Dorset Police supports Syria awareness campaign

Dorset Police today supports a national campaign aimed at informing young people about the dangers of travelling to Syria.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to the country and warns that anyone who does travel is putting themselves in considerable danger.

The whole of Syria is unsafe and a number of UK nationals have been killed or injured fighting in Syria and there is a high threat from terrorism – with terrorist groups targeting UK nationals.

Today, Thursday 24 April 2014, an event is being held at New Scotland Yard in London by Counter Terrorism Policing aimed at encouraging communities to reach out to young people who may be planning to travel to Syria.

The latest campaign is aimed at encouraging people, particularly women, to have trust in the police and other authorities and make contact if they believe a loved one may be planning to travel to Syria.

To support the campaign, a leaflet has been designed which outlines the risks of travelling to Syria and will be issued at ports across the country.

It has been recognised that while some youngsters want to travel to fight in the conflict, many others want to offer aid and support to the Syrian people.

The advice is to donate to registered charities which have experience of providing humanitarian assistance in high risk, insecure and dangerous environments and which have ongoing relief operations in Syria and/or neighbouring countries, such as the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) or its member charities.

The number of people travelling to Syria from the UK is judged to be in the low hundreds and information that is available shows that the number of Syria-related arrests has increased substantially in 2014. The figure for the whole of 2013 was approximately 25 yet for the first three months of 2014 alone it is approximately 40.

Senior national coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, Helen Ball, said: “We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict.

“We want to ensure that people, particularly women who are concerned about their loved ones, are given enough information about what they can do to prevent this from happening.”

Ian Ison, prevention team manager at Dorset Police, said: “There is widespread concern about the situation in Syria and other conflict zones and the way that some will be driven to travel there to engage in humanitarian work or to take part in the fighting.

“There are ways to support the Syrian people more effectively where aid will get to where it is most needed. We advise people not to travel to Syria in line with Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice.

“By travelling to Syria, individuals will be causing distress and anxiety to their families and friends. It is vital that anyone who has concerns that someone may be considering such travel contacts Dorset Police on 101 so we can help reduce the risk to their safety.

“UK nationals who travel to Syria will attract the attention of UK authorities because we know that a number of extremist groups are operating in Syria.

“Some people who travel from the UK to fight will pose a security threat when they return. The police are working closely with partners to identify and disrupt potential threats.”

The Charity Commission’s website should be used to check that a charity is registered and to ensure that donations will be used properly - http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/.

Foreign Office Travel Advice can be found at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/syria.

ISSUED: 24 April 2014