Between 5,000 and 6,000 Europeans have traveled to Syria to join the Islamic State, the EU Commissioner for Justice says stressing that 1,450 of them are French citizens.
The EU officials believe that “the figures are strongly under-estimated,” as foreign fighters are hard to keep track of, French newspaper Le Figaro reported citing Vera Jourova, the EU justice commissioner.
"At the European level, we estimate that 5,000 to 6,000 individuals have left for Syria," she told the paper in an interview.
Jourova added that the majority of them – 1,450 people – are French nationals.
The Commissioner added that they are eyeing more measures to avoid the suspected jihadists leaving the EU countries, considering “prevention [measures] rather than suppression” of the flow.
“We’ve allotted a budget of €2.5 million to provide training of prison and probation staff, as well as that of European prosecutors,” Jourova said.
At least one European, Mehdi Nemmouche, participated in such an attack, and suspected of killing four people in Jewish Museum in Brussels last year.
"At the time of the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, we decided not to allow ourselves to be guided by fear," Jourova said, speaking of January’s deadly assaults in the French capital, and the fatal shootings in Denmark a month later.
The reasons behind the Europeans leaving are “a desire for adventure, boredom, dissatisfaction with their situation in life or a lack of prospects,” a UK research conducted to look into the matter has found, according to the Commissioner.
She added that the EU is accelerating the sharing between police forces and court systems of different states, plus there is an increase in intelligence exchange.
"We want the exchange of information to intensify between Europol and Eurojust [judicial cooperation unit of the EU]," and this exchange should become “systematic and automatic,” Jourova said.
For that, "joint investigation teams are created so that prosecutors and police officers from several EU countries can work together."
Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) currently has control over a significant amount of territory in Syria and Iraq, and has attracted thousands of foreigners to fight in their ranks.