- 2 August 2021
- Generaldirektoratet for Migration og Indre Anliggender
The RAN multi-meeting of the FC&S Working Group (with input from the RAN Rehabilitation, Y&E, POL and LOCAL Working Groups) addressed the topic of children and their mothers returning from previously Daesh controlled territory. The meeting served as an opportunity to assess the current state of play as regards child returnees and their mothers and to explore the type of structures that can help practitioners support them.
The meeting gathered 31 practitioners, including social workers, local P/CVE coordinators, psychologists/psychiatrists, teachers and returnee coordinators, who have experience in working with returning children and their mothers.
This conclusion paper first presents the main lessons learned and the highlights of the discussion and concludes with recommendations formulated by practitioners. Also, some of the main recommendations were:
- It is important to rely and build on structures that are already in place (i.e. multi-agency roundtables), to work on the local level and to limit the number of practitioners involved in each returnee case.
- Consider the delicate balance of info sharing and communication for each given situation. Transparent and clear communication among all the practitioners involved is of utmost importance. Communication with media could result in a transparent image for the key actors and less sensationalised reports in the media. Sharing too much information, however, can undermine a successful reintegration process.
- It is important to monitor both physical and mental wellbeing of returnees upon arrival at the airport. It is advised to consider the presence of psychologists, doctors, dermatologists and other medical specialists.
- Following their return, the children and their mothers need time to adjust to their new reality. This takes priority before working on important issues, such as the ideological component.
- Define a joint long-term goal with all actors and make sure to plan regular (mental health) checkins, especially before important decisions such as a child starting school or a parent’s release from prison.
- Practitioners need to keep an open mind to create a safe space in order to work with families and build trust. To gain trust, returning families need to feel accepted, respected and not judged.
- Working with families and children returning from Iraq and Syria can be challenging for practitioners supporting the families, so it is necessary to organise supervision and counselling for practitioners.
This paper outlines the current state of play on returns of mothers and children, before it presents the main highlights of the discussion, including main challenges in EU Member States. A discussion on experiences and good practices from Belgium, Finland, Kosovo and Sweden follows, before the paper concludes with key recommendations.