Unlike neighbouring country Denmark, where returning jihadists can look forward to a life in prison, Sweden, as usual, has decided on a more welcoming approach.
As ISIS is collapsing in Syria and Iraq, Sweden stands ready to welcome back its fighters for the crumbling Caliphate, with housing, employment or livelihood.
Around 140 Swedes have so far returned after having joined violent Islamic groups in Syria and Iraq. Now several municipalities are preparing to work with those who want to defect. It could include to offer practical support to defectors, SR reports.
One of the few known cases where someone has dropped out after having joined the Islamic State, is in Lund. Although violent Islamic extremism existed in Lund earlier, the issue was raised when lots of Swedish Muslims began to travel to Syria and Iraq to fight with extremist groups.
- When the issue came, first we thought "Oh God, how will we handle this," but we quickly realized that we should deal with this in the same way as others. This is a concern just as any other concerns whatsoever, says says Anna Sjöstrand, which is the municipal coordinator against violent extremism.
In Lund the conclusion is that defectors from violent (Islamic) extremist groups should be treated as defectors from any other environment, such as organized crime. After figuring out the person's needs, the municipality can help with housing, employment or livelihood.
This approach is supported by a report by the national coordinator against violent extremism. The report's author, Christoffer Carlsson, says that a person who wants to leave extremist environments often needs support to be able to do it.
READ: No crime: Swedish Court legalises flying the ISIS flag
- It's straight through social, economic and material terms. You need to be able to reintegrate into the job market, you may need to have a driving license, debt settlement and shelter. When people leave, they want to leave for something else, but if they do not have the resources to do it, it is difficult to realize it, says Christoffer Carlsson.
Without support, the risk is great that they are unable to leave the extremist environment, but instead fall back, says Carlsson.
- Then they might make an attempt and fail because they do not have anything holding them out, instead there is always something to go back to, namely the group they left, he says.
Also Malmö, Borlänge and Örebro have similar views on how to support ISIS defectors. Last year, the Municipality of Örebro got some criticism for offering an internship to a young man who returned after having been in Syria.
Meanwhile in Denmark, jihadists go straight to prison the moment they cross the border, which sounds like a much safer solution. Because being a terrorist does not come with an 'I regret-get me out of jail-card.'
Well, except in Sweden of course.
READ: Denmark to imprison Jihadis for life
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