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    Researchers call for strategy on children of Jihadi fighters

    Two Belgian researchers have highlighted the need for a strategy for the children of Jihadi fighters, noting that neither Belgium nor Europe had a coherent solution for the issue or a systematic policy of repatriation of the offspring of Isis combatants. In a report quoted on Thursday in Le Soir and De Standaard newspapers, Rok Coolsaet of the University of Ghent and Thomas Renard of the Egmont Institute stressed that “it is urgent to come up with a strategy for the children of the jihad”.

    Some 162 minors with at least one parent who is Belgian or resides in Belgium are still in Syria and Iraq following the fall of the so-called Caliphate of the Islamic State. Eighty-one percent of these children are under the age of 12 years.

    “Although most governments consider the children victims, none of them have taken a proactive position on their repatriation,” the researchers noted.

    There is a perception is that repatriating the minors means bringing in potential future terrorists since most of them have grown up in an extremely violent environment. The Belgian Government thus decreed in late 2017 that only children under the age of 10 are automatically considered victims, while the others would be reviewed on a case by case basis.

    However, “the more time they spend in a hostile environment, the more they could be traumatized and possibly develop a hatred for the West,” the researchers argue. “That’s the ideal condition for building up a stateless reserve for jihadism and criminal organisations.”  

    It is therefore imperative for Belgium to clarify the procedure for returning these children, most of whom are doubtless still capable of adapting to Western societies,” Renard and Coolsaet said in their report.

    Maria Novak
    The Brussels Times