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RAN in the Western Balkans National Small-Scale Meeting - Supporting families left behind, Sarajevo 17-18 October 2022


Publication date
20 February 2023
Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
Bosnia and Herzegovina
RAN Publications Topic
  • Family support


Drawing on the first-hand experiences gained in the rehabilitation of particularly women and children returning from formerly Daesh-controlled areas in Syria and Iraq, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has adopted a new national counter terror strategy (2021-2026).

This strategy aims to promote a concerted approach to preparing the families and receiving communities of women and children that are likely to be repatriated at some point in the future. It is envisioned that reintegration, rehabilitation, and resocialisation programmes and activities will contain short-term, medium-term, and long-term measures in the fields of security, health and social protection, access to education, measures for economic support and employment, legal aid, as well as other necessary measures in both custodial and non-custodial settings. Programmes will also include the families of returnees as beneficiaries, in order to prepare them for the eventual return of their family members.

In order to exchange knowledge and experiences, strengthen competences and develop an understanding of what is required to address the needs and risks associated with future repatriations, a two-day expert workshop brought together social workers, psychologists, and local administrators from BiH, Kosovo*, Serbia, and Finland who engage in P/CVE work related to supporting returnees and their families.

The main insights derived from the meeting are listed below.

  • Families of persons who left for Syria and Iraq often lack support needed to deal with the confusion and stress related to the departure and absence of their relative. They require support from social workers on the local level in order to build their capacities to engage with the returnees and their children.
  • In order to support families left behind, practitioners have to tailor-make approaches for each family. The support required is contingent on several issues, such as whether the family member who left for Syria or Iraq is still alive or not or whether children are involved. In cases where family members have died, grief support is needed.
  • Civil society actors can act as a bridge between families and institutions, in order to build trust and work together towards the rehabilitation and reintegration of returnees. EU countries can learn from Western Balkan practitioners when it comes to work with female and child returnees, especially their rehabilitation and reintegration into local communities.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.

Supporting families left behind cover


20 FEBRUARY 2023
Supporting families left behind
21 FEBRUARY 2023
Supporting families left behind - Albanian version
21 FEBRUARY 2023
Supporting families left behind - Macedonian version
21 FEBRUARY 2023
Supporting families left behind - Serbian version