In recent years, many young people have left their home countries
in Europe to join “Islamic State” (“IS”) and other violent extremist
groups in Syria and Iraq. These “foreign fighters” are a cause of
serious concern for public authorities and law enforcement agencies
as there is a risk that, upon their return to Europe, they will have
both the skills and the motivation to carry out terrorist attacks.
The recent attacks in Paris provide evidence of the reality of this
Beyond immediate security threats, there are risks of undermining
the cohesion and integrity of democratic societies by exacerbating
cleavages between various ethnic and religious groups.
The report aims to raise public awareness of the foreign fighters
phenomenon, which is a growing threat to domestic and international
security. It provides information and food for thought on the scale
of the phenomenon, the root causes and the motivations of individuals
who turn into foreign fighters, and measures which may be taken
at different levels in order to tackle it. Finally, the report suggests
a few avenues on how to step up the international response to the
problem, and argues for a greater Council of Europe contribution to
addressing its underlying causes.