Following the collapse of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Europe saw the return of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs), and their families, who had left EU Member States to fight in Iraq and Syria. This posed a significant security challenge to Member States, which sparked a policy debate about the best way to handle their return.
Although the conflict in Syria still rages, the security situation in Iraq continues to steadily improve, enabling those FTFs and their families that still remain in the country or camps outside of it easier passage to return to Europe. While they might not return in such large numbers as before, Europe will continue to see a trickle of returnees over the coming years.
The rehabilitation and reintegration of FTFs and their families back into communities across Europe is therefore now one of the most pressing tasks facing EU Member States and P/CVE practitioners. The nature and scale of the task necessitates a multi-agency approach, with the involvement of practitioners working in multiple fields, from prisons to communities.
While many FTFs are sent to prison, some of their families who returned with them, and particularly the children – who might have been born in Europe or in Iraq or Syria – face an uncertain future. As means of social interaction were cut off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the task of reintegrating them became all the more difficult.
In this Spotlight, RAN practitioners and Working Group leads share their views, insights and their work in dealing with family members and children of FTFs, including dealing with the trauma that they (might) have faced, handling them in schools and support for families “left behind”. Many of these topics have been addressed by RAN Practitioners through Working Group and small-scale meetings during 2021.
As always, we want to hear from you! If you would like to contribute to future editions of Spotlight, or if you have ideas for an article, interview or feature, please get in touch with the RAN Practitioners communications team.