British nationals could be banned from travelling to the last remaining rebel enclave in Syria under new counter-terror laws, Home Secretary Sajid Javid will warn.
In s speech to senior security figures on Monday, Mr Javid will say he is considering whether Britons should be prevented from seeking to enter Idlib in north-west Syria.
The prohibition could be extended to cover the north east of the country as well.
The move follows the passing earlier this year of the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act which allows the Home Secretary to bar UK citizens from travelling to or remaining in specific designated areas in order to protect the public from terrorism.
Failure to comply can result in a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
Idlib – which is surrounded by the Syrian government forces of President Bashar Assad – is home to an estimated 3 million civilians living in increasingly desperate conditions.
Since January it has been largely controlled by the jihadist alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – previously known as the al-Nusra Front until it broke off formal ties with al Qaida in 2016.
Mr Javid will say that he is now taking advice on whether it should be the first area to be designated under the new act.
“I’ve asked my officials to work closely with the police and intelligence agencies to urgently review the case for exercising this power in relation to Syria, with a particular focus on Idlib and the north east,” he said.
“So anyone who is in these areas without a legitimate reason should be on notice.”
Mr Javid will highlight efforts by the police and security services to identify Britons intending to travel overseas and join Islamic State.
“They have seized passports at the border and prevented them from leaving the country,” he will say.
“Along with concerned friends, families and public sector colleagues, they have directed hundreds of at-risk individuals to support our Prevent programmes to turn them away from terrorism.”
He will also emphasise the importance of international co-operation in combating the terrorist threat.
“As these threats become more global we all rely on an international system of defence, policing, security and intelligence. A safety net based upon cooperation, and unity,” he will say.
“These structures rely upon free, democratic nations to pool information, co-ordinate law enforcement action, and surrender suspected criminals across borders.
“More than any other country on Earth, the UK has a coherent, connected approach to intelligence and security and when threats appear, the world still turns to the UK for leadership, support, and action.”