After the pressures put by the U.S. President Donald Trump on EU governments to repatriate their nationals who joined ISIS in Iraq and Syria, most of these governments showed reluctance to take them back. They expressed their deep concerns over the security risks that ISIS returnees would pose if they were allowed a comeback. Although most of these concerns are rational, the need for a solution is dire, especially with the recent developments in Syria where around 800 ISIS fighters of European origin are currently detained in the Kurdish-controlled camps along with thousands of women and children.
Trump, who withdrew the US forces from Syria in October, is apparently determined to return those fighters with their families to their European countries of origin. He threatened “to drop them on their European countries if the governments do not start voluntarily repatriating them from Syrian camps”. Some European governments, on the one hand, oppose the suggestion utterly and further have taken measures to prevent the ISIS fighters from returning, including revoking their citizenship, while some others began to think seriously of taking them back in a bid to ensure that they would remain under control and that they would not be released into their borders and thus become a threat and a source of terrorism.
Other European countries, however, opted for a balanced compromise as they decided to repatriate the children of European countries’ mothers who either were born in conflict zones or rather travelled with their mothers to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Finland and Bosnia are among the countries that opted for this solution.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin announced last week that “Finland will try to repatriate 'as soon as possible' children of Finnish mothers who traveled to Syria to join the ISIS terrorist group”. Furthermore, the Bosnia’s Minister of Security Dragan Mektic said that Bosnia is preparing to repatriate the Bosnian children from camps in Syria to Sarajevo. Although, this move is received with a considerable appeal in the two countries, the challenge remains on whether those children will be joined by their mothers who, in the past, decided to support and fight for ISIS or not.
For Finland, the decision to repatriate the Finnish children’s mothers is currently under discussion; “they will be handled on 'a case-by-case' bases by authorized officials”, said Marin. Bosnia, however, seemed tolerant with this issue as it decided to take children along with their parents, not only mothers. Subsequent measures will be then applied to all: fathers will be put to investigation for terrorism charges; mothers will be admitted to rehabilitation centers, and children will be kept in reception centers for medical examination and reengagement activities.
Denmark’s position is a little bit different. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen cut it short at the opening session of the Danish Parliament in October. She stated: “Denmark will not allow the return of the children of ISIS Danish Fighters because it cannot separate them from their mothers and because those mothers don’t have a place in the Danish society”.
With these different positions into consideration, the question arises: what is the fate of the children who happened to belong to European parents who travelled to war zones for fighting with ISIS? This really poses a serious challenge to the European countries, therefore they should think twice about those children’s fate. While the repatriation would help prevent those children from getting entangled in the terrorist thought and practice, it also opens the door for their parents, especially their mothers, to return with them.