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'Stay away from Syria', police and community leaders urge worried Gloucestershire relatives

By The Citizen  |  Posted: April 29, 2014

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WORRIED Gloucester relatives and friends of people involved in the Syrian conflict have been warned to stay away from the country.

A series of meetings are being held in communities across south west England by police talking about the dangers of travelling to the war stricken nation.

Nationally, the number of people travelling to Syria from the UK is thought to be in the low hundreds.

There have also been approximately 40 Syria-related arrests in the first three months of 2014, compared with just 25 for the whole of last year.

The meetings will encourage people who are worried about the Syrian conflict to donate to humanitarian charities rather than travel to the country themselves.

And now the Sheriff of Gloucester, Said Hansdot, is also asking those in Gloucester who are concerned about the conflict to stay in the UK.

He said: “Everybody would like to do something to help the situation in Syria and there is an important humanitarian cause there, but my advice is not to leave the UK and to give money to charity instead.

“If you go to Syria you may get caught up in something you will have a hard job getting out of, even if you are innocent, and that would only make the situation worse.”

A leaflet issued by police at ports across the country will warn that people entering Syria will be at a high risk of terrorism and kidknap, limited medical support, and difficult contact with family and friends.

Avon and Somerset Police have been leading the meetings throughout our region, urging people not to head out there.

Assistant Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe said: “We are increasingly concerned about the numbers of young people who have or are intending to travel to Syria to join the conflict.

“This is not about criminalising people, it is about preventing tragedies.

“We want to inform those who wish to genuinely help the Syrian cause how they can do so safely and legally.”

One Gloucester resident who has seen the Syrian conflict up close is Ebrahim Musaji, from Goodyear Street.

He visited on aid missions last year, joining a convoy packed with goods bought with money raised by the UK Arabic Society and the Al Fatiha charity.

Before his visit last April, he said: “When I was in Syria in December and January 2013 I was based at a refugee camp near the border of Turkey. The camp is getting bigger and bigger where people are fleeing their homes from the bombing. People are making homes out of anything they can find.”

Kalsoom Bashir, a Muslim chaplain and co-director of Inspire, an organisation which seeks to address inequalities facing British Muslim women, said: “Increasing numbers of young men and even women are travelling to Syria for initially what are humanitarian reasons but whilst there they can be sucked into joining extremist groups believing that they are fighting for a just cause.”

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