Europe needs to rehabilitate extremists returning from Syria
Europe needs to figure out ways to rehabilitate people returning from Syria who traveled to the Arab country to fight for Takfiri terrorist groups, a senior European Union official says.
EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove made the remark at the Mediterranean Dialogues, a conference on security in the Mediterranean region, in the Italian capital Rome on Friday.
Kerchove warned that not all of the returning extremists could be simply thrown in jail, saying, “It’s important to give them an alternative to prison” to be able to reintegrate into society.
He estimated that some 3,000 Europeans have joined the ranks of terrorist groups operating in Syria, especially Daesh, since the beginning of the crisis in the country in 2011.
The official also said it was not easy to “prove that someone fought alongside Daesh,” adding that the EU was trying to improve its identification of militants using “digital proof”.
“To prove that someone was with Daesh in Syria requires access to their email, a conversation on WhatsApp or on Facebook,” Kerchove explained.
“Oftentimes this data is saved in cloud storage in the US and it can take months to obtain,” he noted, stressing that he was in contact with Internet companies and the US administration to expedite the process.
This comes amid a heated international debate about the rising threat of terrorism emanating from Syria, as the November 13 attacks in Paris, which were claimed by Daesh terrorists, killed over 130.
Many say Western governments, including those in Europe, are to blame for their lax control over the past years on the movement of their nationals into Syria and Iraq, saying these European militants could pose huge security risks upon their return home.
Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The crisis has so far claimed the lives of over 250,000 people and displaced nearly half of the country’s population within or beyond its borders.