Jihadists Funding Activities Through European Welfare Benefits
By Soeren Kern/Gatestone InstituteSeptember 01, 2017
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A Libyan imam who called on Allah to "destroy" all non-Muslims received more than $600,000 in welfare payments from the Swiss government, according to the Swiss broadcaster SRF.
Abu Ramadan arrived in Switzerland in 1998 and was granted asylum in 2004 after claiming that the Libyan government was persecuting him for his affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, Ramadan has collected 600,000 Swiss Francs ($620,000) in social welfare payments, according to SRF.
Although Ramadan has lived in Switzerland for nearly 20 years, he can barely speak French or German, and has never held a steady job. Ramadan, 64, will soon be entitled to receive a Swiss state pension.
While taking money from Swiss taxpayers, Ramadan, a well-known Salafist, called for the introduction of Sharia law in Switzerland and urged Muslims to avoid integrating into Swiss society.
He also said that Muslims who commit crimes in Switzerland should not be subject to Swiss laws. In a sermon Ramadan recently preached at a mosque near Bern, he said:
"Oh, Allah, I ask you to destroy the enemies of our religion, destroy the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Russians and the Shiites. God, I ask you to destroy them all and to return to Islam its ancient glory."
Saïda Keller-Messahli, a Swiss-Tunisian human rights activist, said that Ramadan is dangerous because of his opposition to Muslim integration: "This is someone who does not call directly to jihad but creates the mental breeding ground for it."
Adrian Amstutz, a federal parliamentarian, blamed the situation on Swiss multiculturalism:
"This scandal is so huge that it is difficult to believe. Imams who preach hate towards Christians and Jews, and who criticize the depravity of the West, are granted asylum and are living comfortably as refugees on social welfare.
All this with the complicity of cowardly and incompetent authorities who give carte blanche to the complacent and naive assistants of the asylum and social welfare system."
Beat Feurer, a municipal counselor in Biel, the Swiss town where Ramadan has lived for 20 years, called on Swiss authorities to open an investigation: "Personally, I am of the opinion that such people have nothing to do here. They should be expelled."
The Ramadan scandal is being repeated in countries across Europe, where potentially thousands of violent and non-violent jihadists are using welfare payments to finance their activities.
A guide for jihadists in the West -- "How to Survive in the West" -- issued by the Islamic State in 2015 advised: "If you can claim extra benefits from a government, then do so."
In Austria, more than a dozen jihadists collected welfare payments to finance their trips to Syria. Among those detained was Mirsad Omerovic, 32, an extremist Islamic preacher who police say raised several hundred thousand euros for the war in Syria.
Omerovic, a father of six who lives exclusively off the Austrian welfare state, benefited from additional payments for paternity leave.
In Belgium, several of the jihadists in the Brussels and Paris attacks that killed 162 people in 2015 and 2016 received more than €50,000 ($59,000) in social welfare benefits, which they used to finance their terror plots.
Fred Cauderlier, a spokesman for the Belgian prime minister, defended the payments: "This is a democracy. We have no tools to check how people spend their benefits."
In Flemish Brabant and Brussels alone, dozens of jihadists who fought in Syria received at least €123,898 ($150,000) in unlawful benefits, according to the Justice Ministry.
Previously, the Flemish newspaper De Standaard reported that 29 jihadists from Antwerp and Vilvoorde continued to receive €1,000 ($1,200) per month in social welfare benefits even after they had traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the Islamic State.
Antwerp Mayor Bart de Wever said: "It would be unjust for these people to benefit from social programs and use, for example, their unemployment payments to finance their fight in Syria."
In February 2017, the RVA National Employment Agency revealed that 16 jihadists who had returned to Belgium after fighting in Syria were receiving unemployment benefits. RVA spokesperson Wouter Langeraert said:
"We live in a constitutional state. Not every returned Syrian warrior is in prison. Some meet all legal conditions: they are not in prison, they have re-registered in their municipality and they are job seekers and so on."
In Britain, taxpayers bankrolled Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack in which eight people were murdered and 48 others injured.
Salman Abedi, the Manchester suicide bomber, used taxpayer-funded student loans and benefits to bankroll his terror plot. Abedi was given at least £7,000 ($7,000) from the taxpayer-funded Student Loans Company after beginning a business administration degree at Salford University in October 2015.
He is believed to have received a further £7,000 in the 2016 academic year even though by then he had already dropped out of the course. Abedi is also thought to have received housing benefit and income support worth up to £250 a week.
David Videcette, a former Metropolitan police detective who worked on the 7/7 London bombing investigation, said of the student loans' system:
"It is an easy way for a terrorist to move forward and finance their activities at the expense of the taxpayer. All you have got to do is get yourself into university and then off you go. Often they have got no intention of turning up."
Professor Anthony Glees, director of Buckingham University's Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, said: "The British system makes funds readily available to jihadist students without checks on them. There needs to be an inquiry into this."
Meanwhile, Shahan Choudhury, a 30-year-old Bangladeshi-origin jihadist who was radicalized in a British prison, used government welfare money to pay for taking his entire immediate family, including three young children, to join the Islamic State in Syria.
The family disappeared overnight, leaving all of their possessions in their East London apartment, according to their landlady.
In 2015, it emerged that three sisters from Bradford who had travelled to Syria were still claiming benefits. Khadija, 30, Zohra, 33, and 34-year-old Sugra Dawood who travelled to Syria with their nine children used Income Support and Child Tax Credits to finance their trip.
More recently, a freedom of information request revealed that Anjem Choudary, an Islamist who is serving a five-and-a-half year sentence for urging support of the Islamic State, received more than £140,000 ($180,000) in taxpayer-funded legal aid for his unsuccessful bid to avoid prison. The figure is set to rise as his lawyers continue to file claims. The father-of-five has claimed up to £500,000 ($640,000) in benefits, which he has referred to as "Jihad seeker's allowance."
Choudary believes that Muslims are entitled to welfare payments because they are a form of jizya, a tax imposed on non-Muslims as a reminder that they are permanently inferior and subservient to Muslims.
British media reported that before his incarceration Choudary was taking home more than £25,000 ($32,000) a year in welfare benefits. Among other handouts, Choudary was receiving £15,600 a year in housing benefit to keep him in a £320,000 house in Leytonstone, East London.
He also received £1,820 council tax allowance, £5,200 income support and £3,120 child benefits. Because welfare payments are not taxed, his income was equivalent to a £32,500 ($42,000) salary. By comparison, the average annual earnings of full-time workers in Britain was £28,200 ($36,500) in 2016.
More examples of welfare abuse by jihadists in Britain can be found here.
In Denmark, the Security and Intelligence Service (PET) reported that jihadists too sick to work but healthy enough to fight for the Islamic State were receiving disability, sickness and early retirement benefits from the Danish state.
Previously, a document produced by the Employment Ministry revealed that that more than 30 Danish jihadists continued to receive welfare payments, amounting to 672,000 Danish Krone ($92,000), even after they had joined the Islamic State in Syria.
Employment Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said:
"It is totally unacceptable and a disgrace. It must be stopped. If you travel to Syria to participate in jihad, to become an ISIS warrior, then you of course should not have any right to receive benefits from the Danish government."
In France, the government has cut welfare benefits for around 300 individuals identified as jihadists. France is the largest exporter of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria, with more than 900 jihadists travelling abroad.
In Germany, Anis Amri, a 23-year-old Tunisian who carried out the deadly attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, used multiple identities to illegally collect welfare payments. German authorities apparently knew of the fraud but failed to act.
Meanwhile, a jihadist residing in Wolfsburg who took his wife and two small children to Syria continued to receive German welfare payments, amounting to tens of thousands of euros, for one year after leaving Germany. Local authorities said that German privacy laws made it impossible for them to know that the family had left the country.
Overall, more than 20% of the German jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq were found to be receiving state welfare benefits; jihadists are also eligible to begin receiving benefits again after they return to Germany. Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann said:
"It should never come to this. German taxpayers' money should never directly or indirectly finance Islamist terrorism. The benefits of such terrorist parasites should be eliminated immediately. Not working and spreading terror at the expense of the German state is not only extremely dangerous, it is also the worst provocation and disgrace."
In the Netherlands, the government stopped welfare payments to dozens of jihadists a Dutch fighter named Khalid Abdurahman appeared in a YouTube video with five severed heads. Originally from Iraq, Abdurahman was living on social welfare benefits in the Netherlands for more than a decade before he joined the Islamic State in Syria.
Dutch social services declared him to be unfit for work and taxpayers paid for the medication to treat him for claustrophobia and schizophrenia.
The law to terminate welfare payments to jihadists does not extend to student loans: Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher said that such a ban would be counterproductive because it would make it more difficult for returning jihadists to reintegrate.
In Spain, Saib Lachhab, a 41-year-old Moroccan jihadist residing in the Basque city of Vitoria, accumulated €9,000 ($11,000) in welfare payments to finance his plan to join the Islamic State in Syria.
Each month he received €625 ($750) from the central government and €250 ($300) from the Basque government. He also received €900 ($1,075) a month in unemployment benefits.
Samir Mahdjoub, a 44-year-old Algerian jihadist residing in the Basque city of Bilbao, received €650 ($780) each month in welfare support and €250 ($300) in housing support. Redouan Bensbih, a 26-year-old Moroccan jihadist residing in the Basque town of Barakaldo, received welfare payments of €836 ($1,000) a month even after he was killed on a Syrian battlefield.
Police eventually arrested five Muslims in the Basque Country who intercepted the payments and wired them to Morocco. Basque authorities said the payments continued because they were not notified of his death.
Ahmed Bourguerba, a 31-year-old Algerian jihadist residing in Bilbao, received €625 ($750) a month in welfare payments and €250 ($300) in housing support until he was incarcerated for terrorism offenses. Mehdi Kacem, a 26-year-old Moroccan jihadist residing in the Basque city of San Sebastian, received €800 ($950) a month in welfare payments until he was arrested for belonging to the Islamic State.
Previously, a Pakistani couple residing in Vitoria were accused of falsifying identity documents to obtain social welfare payments fraudulently for ten fictitious individuals. Police said that the couple defrauded the Basque government of more than €395,000 ($475,000) over a period of three years.
In Sweden, a report produced by the National Defence University found that 300 Swedish citizens continued to receive welfare payments even after they had left the country to fight for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
In most instances, the jihadists used friends and family members to manage the paperwork to create the illusion that they were still in Sweden.
Muslim convert Michael Skråmo, for example, received more than 50,000 Swedish kronor ($5,000) in welfare payments after he moved to Syria with his wife and four children. It was not until a year after Skråmo had left Gothenburg that his benefits were terminated.
Magnus Ranstorp, one of the report's authors, said that the payments exposed the weakness in Sweden's control mechanisms:
"Michael Skråmo has been one of the most well-known IS sympathizers for quite some time. Police should be able to somehow sound the alarm and inform all the authorities when someone has journeyed down there."
Meanwhile, the state employment agency, Arbetsförmedlingen, ended a pilot project aimed at helping migrants find jobs after it emerged that Muslim employees at the agency were recruiting Swedish jihadists. Islamic State operatives allegedly bribed -- and in some instances threatened -- agency employees in efforts to recruit fighters from Sweden.
City officials in Lund remain undeterred: They have launched a pilot project aimed at providing Swedish jihadists who are returning from Syria with housing, employment, education and other financial support -- all thanks to the Swedish taxpayers.