In effort to add pressure on Syrian President Bashar Assad, the European Union has announced new sanctions on a dozen Syrians, including Assad's wife, his mother, sister and sister-in-law.

"I cannot say to you in strong enough terms how much we are concerned about what's going on in Syria," said Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, according to CNN. "I'm really worried about the escalating spiral of violence there.

"Sanctions make a significant difference because they do two things: One is they target individuals and entities in ways that prevent them from carrying on their business as usual, and secondly, they make a strong political statement about how the international community feels about what's going on," she added.

Asma Assad, the president's wife, has come into the spotlight after The Guardian published emails that showed her enjoying shopping sprees while government security forces killed civilians.

The Guardian reports today that sanctions mean the four women are now banned from accessing EU accounts and traveling to the European Union.

The case of Asma Assad, however is more complicated. Assad was born in England, so she can still travel to the country.

The Guardian adds:

"And despite the asset freeze, British government sources said Asma would still be able to use the house she owns in London. There would be no attempt to strip her of her British nationality."'British passport-holders have a right of entry to the UK. But given we are imposing an asset freeze on all of these individuals and a travel ban on other members of the same family or regime, we are not expecting Mrs Assad to try and travel to the UK at present,' said [Foreign Secretary William] Hague following a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels."

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