- Publication date
- 30 August 2023
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs
In recent years, women and children from formerly Daesh-controlled territories have been repatriated in many countries, including in the Western Balkans (WBs) and EU Member States (MSs). However, the management of child returnees remains a fairly new and constantly evolving task for these countries.
A wide range of measures can be taken in the period between the children’s arrival and their successful reintegration; likewise, many relevant stakeholders can play a positive role in supporting the child returnee resocialisation processes.
During a Paris study visit, participants from the WBs visited the Juvenile Justice Department (PJJ) under the French Ministry of Justice, and met with administrators and practitioners to discuss the French approach to the management of child returnees. In addition, they discussed the different measures and mechanisms currently used in their own regions.
Some of the key take-aways from the meeting follow.
- Participants agreed on the crucial importance of a multi-agency approach in supporting child returnees’ rehabilitation and resocialisation. Multidisciplinary teams and multisectoral perspectives are essential at both national and local level, in the communities where the children will be living.
- In the majority of cases, children are repatriated with their mothers. Female returnees in France are subject to criminal investigations and prosecution; in the Western Balkans women typically do not enter the criminal justice system. Instead they remain with their children and are integrated into rehabilitation and reintegration programmes outside the custodial system.
- The role of juvenile judges differs vastly in the French vis-à-vis the Western Balkans context: in France, they are responsible for coordinating the measures applicable to child returnees. In the Western Balkans, on the other hand, they play no part in the process whatsoever, which prevents interventions from being established in a clear legal framework.
This paper provides an overview of the French approach to the management and reintegration of child returnees, outlining the different actors involved and the challenges encountered so far. A discussion of the approaches and measures in place in the Western Balkans region follows, including an analysis of the differences and similarities to the French setup and the gaps and good practices identified by the attending practitioners