Returning from violence: How to tackle the foreign fighters’ problem in the Western Balkans?

How to tackle the issue with returning foreign fighters? Our Christian Kvorning contributed to the new IFAT publication with a chapter about the Aarhus model.

The new publication of IFAT (Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade) is focused on the phenomenon of radicalization of the young people from the EU and Western Balkans who are consequently leaving to Syria and Iraq to join the fighting. Until 2017 about 5000 such individuals came from the EU. Being associated with the migration crisis and terrorists attacks in Europe the topic is highly politicised and securiticised. Unfortunately, the political and public discourse often lacks the proper understanding of the phenomenon while easily stigmatise countries or groups of people. For this reason, the primary aim of the project is to explore the phenomenon in a comprehensive manner that highlights its complexity (incl. conflicts zones and societal groups that are concerned).

The chapter of our Christian Kvorning describes the Aarhus model. A comprehensive multi-disciplinary holistic approach which successfully works in the second biggest Danish city Aarhus. The program combines the help of local social authorities, followed by mentoring and eventually security monitoring. It's used both in the case of prevention and also as an exit-programme for fighters returning back to Danmark.

The Aarhus Model’s theoretical foundation is grounded in Life Psychology, a scientific discipline combining elements of psychology, social sciences and humanities developed at the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences, Aarhus University. (...) Everybody aspires to a “good-enough life.” “Good enough” because life is seldom (never) perfect in terms of avoiding various challenges, obstacles and setbacks concerning one’s aspirations and life projects. (Bertelsen, 215, p. 246) Having a good-enough grip on life means coping sufficiently successfully with the tasks life offers, which depends on having the necessary skills to handle them. The tasks may be concrete daily-life tasks regarding one’s social life, work or leisure as well as making important choices, or perhaps a wish to make a difference in life. (Bertelsen, 215, p. 246) Every human being regardless of gender, cultural background, abilities and disabilities, life history as well as social situation is confronted with exactly the same fundamental life tasks. (Bertelsen, 215, p. 246)

The exit-programme presupposes that the returning foreign fighter has done nothing criminal aside from the journey which was made criminal itself last year. (Aarhus Stiftstidende, 2017) If the person has committed crimes beyond travelling, he or she will be prosecuted according to the Danish law. Either way, the person will be subjected to de-radicalisation measures within the prison system which includes many of the aforementioned resources as well.

However, given its ‘soft approach’, a single case of failure – such as a foreign fighter returning, being admitted into the model and then carrying out an act of terrorism – could be fatal for the Aarhus Model. While it is indisputably much more efficient and economic than disproportionate prison sentences, it is also more vulnerable to stigma from society as well as decision-makers should it fail as its subjects are ‘free’ while undergoing its treatment, as opposed to if they were imprisoned.

Full Christian's chapter can be found on the pages 26-35. The whole publication is available through the PDF button on the right side next to the article and more info about the publication can be found here.

#radicalisation #deradicalisation #foreign fighters #Western Balkans #Aarhus #Syria #Iraq #ISIS #ISIL

Christian Kvorning Lassen
Deputy Director & Head of Research

Expertise: Migration/European migration crisis, EU foreign policy, Scandinavian politics, populism, EU enlargement policy

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