Denmark has discovered that dozens of its citizens fighting for Islamic State have continued to receive cash benefits. According to local media the government somehow expects jihadists to pay the improperly distributed funds back.
At least 36 people who are known by authorities to have left Denmark to allegedly to join the ranks of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) continued to receive welfare payments, according to the Ekstra Bladet newspaper.
Thirty-four alleged jihadists received cash benefits from municipal authorities, and two others from private but heavily state-subsidized funds. The newspaper obtained the figures from the Danish Employment Ministry through a freedom of information request.
The municipalities and the private funds demanded a repayment of the improperly distributed benefits from the 29 of the alleged jihadists. The seven others have presumably been killed in action. It remains unclear, exactly how the organizations expect to get the money from jihadists back, who in total have received a hefty sum of 672,000 kroner (around $77,300).
Members of the Employment Committee of the Danish Parliament from two opposing sides of the Danish political spectrum have showed a notable unanimity on this matter.
"It is totally reprehensible. It is clear that you must be available to the Danish labor market when receiving cash, so you obviously do not travel abroad, and one should certainly not travel to a place where you take part in something like that,” the Ekstra Bladet quoted Karsten Honge of the Socialist People's Party as saying.
A representative of the right-wing Danish People’s Party Bent Bogsted expressed almost the same opinion.
"They are not available for work, and they cannot be if they are involved in the conflict in Syria, so they must be deprived of cash assistance,” Bogsted said.
Denmark’s Employment Minister Troels Lund Poulsen promised to "take action.”
"It is totally unacceptable and a disgrace. It must be stopped,” he told Ekstra Bladet. "If you travel to Syria to participate in war, to become an ISIS fighter, then you obviously do not have any right for benefits from the government.”
Such an outrageous situation was blamed on both the municipalities’ lack of awareness and sluggishness of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET), who failed to issue a warning about the suspicious individuals, according to the minister. Only one of the alleged jihadists out of the 36 was reported to the police by a municipality.
It’s not the first time that Danish IS-fighters receiving welfare benefits have been reported. In 2014, PET disclosed information on 28 jihadists, receiving benefits while fighting in Syria. It remained unclear, whether the state managed to get the payments back from the jihadists that time and whether the new number of 36 jihadists included the 2014 figures.
At least 135 people have left Denmark to join Islamic State jihad and participate in middle-eastern wars, according to PETs estimates. Denmark is believed to be the second European country after Belgium supplying the most fighters to IS. The overall number of Danish jihadist fighters almost equals the Danish army's 150-soldier unit, deployed in Iraq as a part of the US-backed coalition fighting IS.