Close to every person who left Sweden to fight for terror groups in the Middle East received welfare to support themselves abroad, according to a new government report.
A study of 300 Swedish citizens who fought in Syria and Iraq between 2013 and 2016 shows jihadis are getting increasingly good at getting away with welfare fraud. The individuals often use a person in Sweden to handle paperwork and create the illusion that they’re still in the country.
“It’s not surprising, we’ve seen the same pattern in other countries,” Magnus Ranstorp, one of the authors behind the report, told state broadcaster SVT. “What’s most surprising is that close to everyone received it in some form. The oversight process needs to get better.”
The most attractive option are government loans to study abroad. The loans are easy to get and thousands of dollars are paid out at once.
How European welfare benefits help fund ISIS fighters
“It’s not a lot of money, they won’t get rich, but it can last for a long time in a conflict zone,” Ranstorp told SVT.
The Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) recently identified several cases of Danish citizens receiving early pension because they were deemed too sick or disabled to work. They later left the country to fight for Islamic State while the payments continue to get deposited into their accounts.
“It is a huge scandal that we disburse money from the welfare fund in Denmark for people who go to Syria,” Employment Minister Troels Lund Poulsen told the Berlinske newspaper in a February interview. “Staying in a war zone and directly or indirectly taking part in military operations is not something that is in any way compatible with receiving disability benefits.”
PET has tried to cut off the benefits since 2014, but current legislation doesn’t allow the payment agency to cut early pensions simply because the recipient is believed to be a terrorist.