Initiative on Addressing the Challenge of Returning Families of Foreign Terrorist Fighters First Regional Workshop

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 8, 2018

The United States and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, under the auspices of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), are holding the first regional workshop on the Initiative on Addressing the Challenge of Returning Families of Foreign Terrorist Fighters. The workshop will take place in Tunis, Tunisia on February 8–9, 2018. This is the first of three regional workshops that will develop new GCTF good practices to guide international engagement, assistance, and training to address the potential challenges and security risks posed by family members of foreign terrorist fighters.

As ISIS’s battlefield losses accelerated, foreign terrorist fighters who traveled to Syria and Iraq began to return to their home countries or relocate to third countries. These individuals present specific challenges in their new locales, specifically those who traveled with family members. Some family members may have engaged in terrorist acts while in Syria and Iraq or may pose a threat to receiving communities. Others may be victims of ISIS – particularly young children – who witnessed unspeakable violence, were indoctrinated with violent extremist ideologies, or otherwise became desensitized to ISIS’s brutality.

To address this complex issue, this year-long initiative will bring together national and local governments, international organizations, medical and psychological service providers, and family support organizations over a series of three regional workshops.

Participants at the first regional workshop in Tunisia are assessing the threat of returning families of foreign terrorist fighters in the Sahel/Maghreb region; discussing existing tools and gaps for women, young children, and juveniles; and reviewing rehabilitation and reintegration options for family members who may face incarceration upon returning. The discussions over the two-day workshop will help shape a set of non-binding good practices on this issue that will be put forward for endorsement by GCTF members at the 2018 GCTF Ministerial Meeting.