Many jihadi fighters returning to Sweden have been given “protected identities” by the government to help them re-integrate into society.
This is despite the fact that those returning have gone on to commit terrorist attacks (in Paris in 2015 and Brussells in 2016) and that most of the European jihadis who join ISIS have criminal backgrounds.
Some return because they have simply had enough; other are defectors. Most have committed atrocities while fighting for the world’s most preeminent terrorist organization.
A number have been jailed for the crimes they committed while abroad, including Sultan Al-Amin, 31, and Hassan Al-Mandlawi, 33, who fought in Aleppo.
It is estimated that at least 150 fighters have returned to Sweden, with another 112 still there. The remaining fighters, who are considered the most radical, are expected to return.
Because of their previous visibility – due not in small part to their own postings on social media – the returnees maintain a low profile.
“They live as shadows and do everything to avoid being recognized,” according to the Swedish news outlet Expressen in a recently published expose on those who have returned. Some say they have had a hard time finding a job.
The reentry program – which may include free housing, a driver’s license, and tax benefits — was instituted by Anna Sjostrand, a municipal coordinator against violent extremism Lund, a city in southern Sweden.
“There may be criticism, but [I think] that you should get the same help as others who seek help from us. We can’t say that because you made a wrong choice, you have no rights to come back and live in our society,” said Sjostrand, speaking on Swedish radio.
Sjostrand has based her program on a report authored by criminologist Christoffer Carlsson, who contends that without support from the government, “The risk is great that they [the returning jihadis] are unable to leave the extremist environment … they might make an attempt and fail because they have nothing to keep them out, and there is always something to return to, namely the organization they left.”
The program has not been without criticism. Sweden was previously criticized in March when a report showed that jihadis who traveled from Sweden to fight in Syria and Iraq were still collecting welfare benefits from the government.