Danish foreign fighters welcomed back into country, given community support to get ‘old life back’
Denmark is welcoming back nationals who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq and encouraging them to reintegrate into the community.
The approach is vastly different from that of Australia, which is currently debating stripping foreign fighters of citizenship.
Far from shunning its foreign fighters, Denmark is welcoming them back in a move some might call radical.
“This is rather cheap to do these things and it works,” superintendent Allan Aarslev of the East Jutland Police said.
Mr Aarslev is in charge of the ambitious program based in Denmark’s second largest city Aarhus.
The city has a population similar to Canberra but at least 34 Muslim men and a few women from the city have travelled to Syria to fight against the regime of Bashar al Assad.
Some of them have been killed, but many have returned home.
“If we cannot prove they have committed any kind of crimes, we would like to help them get their old life back and to make sure they do not commit any type of crimes when they return,” Mr Aarslev told 7.30.
It starts with a coffee and a chat between the police and the returning fighter.
Then, working through local councils, the program offers mentoring, psychological counselling and other practical help.
“If they have left the education system, we could help them back into the education system,” Mr Aarslev said.
“We could assist them to have a place to live if they have no places to live.
“This program works and this program can do things which the other things cannot do.
“It can rehabilitate some of these persons so that we would not forever have to surveil these persons.”
Muslim leader praises program’s success, focus on equality
After more than a year of the program, the number of jihadists leaving Aarhus has dropped markedly.
Two years ago, 31 people left the country. That number then dropped to one last year and just two have left so far this year.
Oussama El Saadi is chairman of the Grimhojvej mosque, where many of the fighters have come from.
“What we see this period … they stop and that it’s a good signal that the program is successful,” he said.
“But what happens in the future, we don’t know.”
Mr El Saadi said what changed was the consultative approach of the police — treating Danish Muslims as equals.
“We feel that now [they are] coming to us because they say, ok, we are all Danish,” he said.
“We have a free religion but we need the help to find a solution for this problem with the young … and it’s a very good step from the authorities.
“We say, yes, sure it’s our country and our society and we have to do anything to help.”
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