- Publication date
- 19 January 2022
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
Exit work is a crucial element of strategies for preventing and countering violent extremism (P/CVE). Former radicalised offenders who have successfully distanced themselves from violent extremism can play an important role in the deradicalisation, rehabilitation and societal reintegration of those seeking to exit extremist groups.
For the purpose of exploring the benefits as well as the potential pitfalls of including formers in exit work, RAN Practitioners held a small-scale expert workshop on 11 November 2021, gathering exit and probation workers, researchers and former extremists using their experience in a professional capacity, to compare and exchange practical experiences with engaging formers as colleagues in exit work.
Of the 15 practitioner experts who joined the meeting, half identified themselves as former extremists, mostly with a background in violent right-wing extremism, offering their personal experience as well as insights from their work with other formers. Experiences were shared as to selection procedures and training and what skills formers will need to acquire in order to tap into their great potential to be able to engage with members of their former peer group in an authentic and empathetic manner.
Some of the key takeaways were:
- When we discuss how to engage former extremists in exit work, we must first define the term former as well as differentiate the scope of work for them to engage in. While formers might be able to engage in public outreach for an exit organisation without much preparation, working in a disengagement context will require specific training.
- There is no agreed definition of what the term former means. It can include anyone from individuals who just recently disengaged, to individuals who disengaged decades ago and have been working professionally for a long time.
- The intentions behind formers wanting to professionalise should be taken into consideration when seeking to involve them in exit work. Some former extremists might be looking for an opportunity to inflate their own ego as opposed to truly helping others.
- When seeking to determine a point in time from which onwards a former extremist is sufficiently disengaged to be engaged in exit work, it can be helpful to think of disengagement from extremism as a non-linear process, as opposed to a final destination. In considering more closely what the steps of this process look like, we can determine from what point onwards in their own disengagement process someone will be able to help others.