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Returnees : who are they, why are they (not) coming back and how should we deal with them ? Assessing policies on returning foreign terrorist fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands

Rik Coolsaet UGent and Thomas Renard (2018) In Egmont Paper 101.
abstract
This report looks into policies on returning foreign fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. It is the very first systematic and in-depth study into national approaches and policies vis-à-vis returnees. Its added value lies in the wealth of data, including data that has not been published before, and, of course, in the comparative angle. Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have different histories of terrorism, different institutional systems and different approaches to terrorism and radicalisation. But all three are affected by the issue and, together, represent a third of European FTF and returnees. Interestingly, in spite of some significant differences, the three countries’ responses have slowly converged over the past couple of years. Generally speaking, each government would prefer that foreign fighters do not come back, while not formally preventing them from doing so. Once back in their homelands, returnees generally go to provisional detention, awaiting trial. Until recently, women were treated with more clemency, but this has now come to an end (most recently in Germany). In prison, different detention regimes are applied, from isolation to dispersal among other detainees, but overall the approach is a tailored one with mechanisms to monitor detainees and constantly adjust their conditions. Once out of prison, returnees fall back on mechanisms that were established to deal with FTF, although the Netherlands employs more intrusive measures than Belgium or Germany. Each of the three country chapters in this report start with an overview of the scope of the FTF challenge, and a profile of the returnees. We also seek to compare current figures with those from previous jihadi conflicts, which is difficult given the paucity of data. Each chapter then looks at the evolution of the perception of this issue among authorities since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2012, and at the development of more coherent policies. Next comes a sequential description of the policies in place to deal with returnees: how to deal with fighters still in the conflict zone, with those that have come back, those in prison and those who have been released. Finally, the sensitive question of what to do about children in the jihadi war zone or recently returned from there is also assessed in some depth. Transcending the national perspectives, David Malet offers a historical perspective on foreign fighters in Europe, explaining that the issue is nothing new – not even in scope. The involvement of European citizens in foreign fighter movements appears to be a continuous phenomenon and it would be well to absorb the lessons of history not only for the challenges of today but to prepare for the future as well.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
year
type
book
publication status
published
subject
keyword
Terrorism ISIS Daech Syria Foreign fighters Radicalisation
series title
Egmont Paper
volume
101
pages
76 pages
publisher
Egmont-Royal Institute for International Relations
place of publication
Brussels
ISBN
979-10-96843-15-2
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
B1
id
8547880
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-8547880
date created
2018-02-05 17:55:30
date last changed
2018-02-20 10:23:29
@book{8547880,
  abstract     = {This report looks into policies on returning foreign fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. It is the very first systematic and in-depth study into national approaches and policies vis-{\`a}-vis returnees. Its added value lies in the wealth of data, including data that has not been published before, and, of course, in the comparative angle. 

Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have different histories of terrorism, different institutional systems and different approaches to terrorism and radicalisation. But all three are affected by the issue and, together, represent a third of European FTF and returnees. 

Interestingly, in spite of some significant differences, the three countries{\textquoteright} responses have slowly converged over the past couple of years. Generally speaking, each government would prefer that foreign fighters do not come back, while not formally preventing them from doing so. Once back in their homelands, returnees generally go to provisional detention, awaiting trial. Until recently, women were treated with more clemency, but this has now come to an end (most recently in Germany). 

In prison, different detention regimes are applied, from isolation to dispersal among other detainees, but overall the approach is a tailored one with mechanisms to monitor detainees and constantly adjust their conditions. Once out of prison, returnees fall back on mechanisms that were established to deal with FTF, although the Netherlands employs more intrusive measures than Belgium or Germany.

Each of the three country chapters in this report start with an overview of the scope of the FTF challenge, and a profile of the returnees. We also seek to compare current figures with those from previous jihadi conflicts, which is difficult given the paucity of data. Each chapter then looks at the evolution of the perception of this issue among authorities since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2012, and at the development of more coherent policies. Next comes a sequential description of the policies in place to deal with returnees: how to deal with fighters still in the conflict zone, with those that have come back, those in prison and those who have been released. Finally, the sensitive question of what to do about children in the jihadi war zone or recently returned from there is also assessed in some depth.

Transcending the national perspectives, David Malet offers a historical perspective on foreign fighters in Europe, explaining that the issue is nothing new -- not even in scope. The involvement of European citizens in foreign fighter movements appears to be a continuous phenomenon and it would be well to absorb the lessons of history not only for the challenges of today but to prepare for the future as well. },
  author       = {Coolsaet, Rik and Renard, Thomas},
  isbn         = {979-10-96843-15-2},
  keyword      = {Terrorism ISIS Daech Syria Foreign fighters Radicalisation},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {76},
  publisher    = {Egmont-Royal Institute for International Relations},
  title        = {Returnees : who are they, why are they (not) coming back and how should we deal with them ? Assessing policies on returning foreign terrorist fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands},
  volume       = {101},
  year         = {2018},
}

Chicago
Coolsaet, Rik, and Thomas Renard. 2018. Returnees : Who Are They, Why Are They (not) Coming Back and How Should We Deal with Them ? Assessing Policies on Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Vol. 101. Brussels: Egmont-Royal Institute for International Relations.
APA
Coolsaet, R., & Renard, T. (2018). Returnees : who are they, why are they (not) coming back and how should we deal with them ? Assessing policies on returning foreign terrorist fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands (Vol. 101). Brussels: Egmont-Royal Institute for International Relations.
Vancouver
1.
Coolsaet R, Renard T. Returnees : who are they, why are they (not) coming back and how should we deal with them ? Assessing policies on returning foreign terrorist fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Brussels: Egmont-Royal Institute for International Relations; 2018.
MLA
Coolsaet, Rik, and Thomas Renard. Returnees : Who Are They, Why Are They (not) Coming Back and How Should We Deal with Them ? Assessing Policies on Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Vol. 101. Brussels: Egmont-Royal Institute for International Relations, 2018. Print.