The new report created by the by the National Defence University on behalf of the Financial Supervisory Authority (FSA) shows that around 300 Islamists have claimed benefits by using others to give the government the impression that they are still in Sweden despite the fact that they are in Syria or Iraq fighting for jihadist groups, Swedish broadcaster SVTreports.
Terrorist researcher and one of the authors of the report Magnus Ranstorp said the problem isn’t just limited to Sweden. Commenting on the results, he said:
it was not surprising, we have seen the same pattern in other countries. Most surprising was that almost all had it in some form. But it is the monitoring that needs to work better. The problem is that there is too little follow-up.
The 300 individuals covered in the report traveled from Sweden to the Middle East between 2013 and 2016, and are thought to have participated in fighting for groups including the terrorist Islamic State.
Housing allowances, child support, student loans, maintenance and parental benefits are the most common types of benefits earned by the Islamists, often collected by a third party with the money then sent to them overseas. "It’s not big money, they do not get rich on it, but it can go a long way in a conflict zone," Ranstorp said.
Police say that student loans, in particular, are an issue because the fighters can game the system by pretending to be going overseas to study and receive large lump sums from the Swedish government.
Swedish Minister for Upper Secondary School and Adult Education and Training Anna Ekström said the problem was “totally unacceptable. No state funds will be used for something that is in the vicinity of terrorism. We must take hold of this immediately. We are preparing now to go to the parliament and ensure that the government gets the opportunity to ensure that we do not pay out such large sums at once.”
Sweden has seen at least one case in which the government paid a jihadi before. Late last year, Muslim convert Michael Skråmo was revealed to have been paid £4,300 by the government since leaving for the Middle East in 2014.
The Swedish government has also essentially legalised the flying of the Islamic State flag after a Swedish court refused to prosecute a man who displayed the symbol on his social media account as a promotion of the terrorist group.
In 2015 it was shown that the Swedish city of Gothenburg sent more Islamists to the Middle East per capita than any other city in Europe.