Terrorism & Insurgency

Likely ad-hoc repatriation of Islamic State foreign fighters would strengthen jihadist networks in Europe

11 March 2019

Between 800 and 1,000 Islamic State fighters, many of whom retain Western citizenship, are being held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at detention centres in northeastern Syria. With the US planning to withdraw most of its troops from Syria imminently, the fate of these Islamic State prisoners poses a serious challenge for European governments.

  • European governments will probably attempt other options where possible, but up to a few hundred European citizens who joined the Islamic State are ultimately likely to be repatriated on a case-by-case basis. In specific cases, alternative routes to repatriation will be applicable. One option is to revoke citizenship for individuals with dual nationality, or who are eligible for citizenship from another country.

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