Welcome Home? ISIS Returnees Test Balkan Countries’ Ability to Reintegrate

The recent repatriation of families of ISIS fighters to Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia poses a tough challenge to all three countries to rehabilitate them back into society.

On July 18, North Macedonia announced that it had repatriated 23 of its citizens who had spent the last few years on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq and been one-time members of Islamic State, ISIS.

Four of the 23 were wanted for terrorism and face trial. Of the rest, five are women and 14 are children.

In a similar manner, in mid-July, neighbouring Kosovo announced that it had repatriated 11 of its citizens from Syria, saying only that the 11 included one woman and her children.

On August 1, Albania repatriated 19 people from the Al-Hol camp in Syria, 14 of whom were children and five women.

While some EU countries have refused to accept back citizens who have been part of ISIS, these three Balkan countries have devised reintegration strategies, and say they expect more such returnees.

But the road from having a strategy to the successful deradicalisation and social integration of former members of terrorist organisations like ISIS is a long one, experts told BIRN.

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