Addressing Returning Families of Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Today, the international community faces a terrorist threat more adaptive and geographically dispersed than ever. An estimated 40,000 foreign fighters from over 100 countries have joined terrorist groups and violent extremist causes in places such as Syria and Iraq. As the international community makes gains on the battlefield, those international conflict zones become less hospitable, forcing many of the fighters to travel home or elsewhere, giving rise to the issue of returning foreign terrorist fighters (RFTFs). While the prospect of RFTFs is receiving considerable attention, how to handle the families who accompanied them or were acquired in the conflict zones and are looking to return to a third country or their country of origin, is a growing challenge and one that has been far less of a focus to date.

The GCTF Initiative on Addressing the Challenge of Returning Families of Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs), co-led by the Netherlands and the United States under the auspices of the GCTF FTF Working Group, developed a set of good practices that can serve as the basis for international engagement, assistance, and training to address the potential challenges and security risks posed by family members of FTFs who return from conflict zones to their country of origin or relocate to a third country. The document was endorsed at the Ninth GCTF Ministerial Plenary Meeting in New York in September 2018.

The Good Practices document was developed following the launch event held in London, the United Kingdom in November 2017, as well as three region-specific workshops focusing on the Sahel/Maghreb, held in Tunis, Tunisia, Southeast Asia, held in Bali, Indonesia, and Europe, held in Madrid, Spain, in the spring of 2018.