Conducting Workshops on the Issue of Foreign Terrorist Fighters

In October 2014, ICCT began a project aimed at addressing the challenges posed by the growing number of foreign fighters that travel abroad, in particular to Syria and Iraq, to engage in or otherwise support terrorist activity. 

Foreign fighters can pose a potential threat to states in numerous ways: at the minimum level, it is likely that, if they return, they will have experienced psychological trauma associated with war and will require health care assistance, rehabilitation and reintegration type interventions. While abroad, foreign fighters can also pose a threat by attempting to recruit others to join the fight. They can also acquire more advanced terrorist and fighting skillsets and significantly expand their transnational extremist networks. Finally, and at the most extreme level, it is possible that some will have joined Islamic extremist factions whilst fighting abroad and may seek to attack their home countries on return to export their violent ideology of global jihad against the West. Evidence-based research shows that they are more likely to succeed, they are more determined and likely to use more deadly force if they have been abroad for terrorist training or in conflict zones.


Project Activities & Goals

The overall objective of the project is to assist governments in strengthening and developing an effective and comprehensive  response to dealing with foreign fighters. Depending on the needs identified during scoping missions the workshops will be aimed at practitioners, prosecutors, judges, and policy makers and could shed light on a range of tools available to governments to address issues related to foreign fighters in the context of, for example, prevention, reintegration and community engagement. The workshops could also specifically look at the use of administrative sanctions as well as criminal justice sector responses.


Format of the Workshops

The workshops will – through case studies, comparative analyses and illustrations of best practices – stimulate dialogue and engage with practitioners and policymakers from different countries in working on their comprehensive approach to deal with foreign fighters. The aim of the workshop is four-fold:

  1. To enhance participants’ understanding of the challenges related to Foreign Terrorist Fighters;
  2. To stimulate cooperation and dialogue on the variety of tools and actions available to address the Foreign Terrorist Fighter issue;
  3. To lay foundations for increased cooperation with regional and international partners through discussing concrete experiences and;
  4. To develop best practices and initiate the design and implementation of tailor-made solutions for each participating country. 

International Cooperation

The focus of the workshops will be on best practices and lessons learnt from international, regional and national approaches that can inform policy development in participants’ country of origin. Through stimulating dialogue, interactive discussions and action planning, the workshops will assist in deepening participants’ understanding of the complex issues surrounding foreign fighters and contribute to increased international and cross-agency cooperation on the matter.

The project relates to efforts of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) and its The Hague-Marrakesh Memorandum on Good Practices for a More Effective Response to the Foreign Fighter Phenomenon and corresponds with the recently adopted UN Security Council Resolution 2178 (2014) on foreign fighters. 


Participating Countries

The current project focuses on countries in the Middle East, North Africa and the Balkans. 


Additional Information

For more information on this project please contact Programme Manager Karlien Lismont.