Is the reintegration of Daesh’s children and adolescents in Europe feasible? Would it put Europe at risk for those returning to the European countries?

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Varisano Martinez, Deborah
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The Islamic State, more commonly known as ISIS or Daesh counts numerous children and adolescents in its ranks. A considerable number of these children are foreigners and come from some countries of the European Union. At the European level, these children are part of different categories: those who went to Daesh conflict zone’s territory by choice; those who were taken there by their radicalized parents; and those who are born in ISIS territory from an EU relative. However, now that ISIS is now losing ground, what will happen to these children? Will they come back to the EU countries? Are they allowed to? What will be the EU governments’ approaches for these child returnees? Are they victims or participants of ISIS machinery? Are they going to face prosecution, or will they be rather reintegrated into society? Is this reintegration possible on a psychological, social, educational, societal point of view? And what about the security of the EU countries they will come back to? Is this security at risk? Are the EU citizens going to accept these children back? These are some of the most important questions that are raised and answered as best as possible throughout this paper. In order to understand the functioning and deep core of ISIS and understand if these children could be reintegrated back into the European societies, it is first of utmost importance to elaborate on ISIS’s history, their motives to use children, how do they recruit them, how they manage to turn these children into what they call “the lioncubs of the caliphate”, and whether the participation of these children is mostly voluntary or not. Once these components analyzed, we can go on and consider the impact conflicts can have on these children, if they are seen as victims or participants, and what are the reactive and repressive measures that can be applied. Since the EU member states’ experiences with child returnees is a new phenomenon and is still very limited, it is necessary to consider initiatives and efforts that have been used for former child soldiers and analyze if these could fit or be adapted to Daesh child’s returnees. It is beyond any doubt that the question of Europe’s security is on the mind of many people when considering the reintegration of these children. Therefore, considering the global European response to these returnees, evaluate the racist and discriminatory climate in the European countries, and interpret the citizens’ reactions to these child’s returnees is primordial. Finally, amongst the EU member states, a point of analysis will be made on Belgium to understand its approach and “readiness” as regards to these children. In lights of the elements analyzed throughout this paper, we can estimate that the reintegration of these children and adolescents will be a difficult journey but not an impossible one, and as far as the security of Europe is concerned, it is not necessary to consider these child’s returnees as real threats but rather as potential ones. Indeed, if they receive the necessary and adequate support and assistance they need, their reintegration might be feasible, and Europe’s security will be at low risk. It is however, impossible to guarantee and insure the positive future and fate of these children as their treatment will be a long-term job, but optimism and inclusivity are the keywords for the future.
Second semester University: University of Coimbra
children, reintegration, terrorism, Islam and politics, child soldiers, European Union, security