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Foreign fighters in Syria

Motion for a resolution | Doc. 13559 | 30 June 2014

Mr Dirk Van der MAELEN, Belgium, SOC ; Mr Mohammed AMEUR, Morocco ; Lord Donald ANDERSON, United Kingdom, SOC ; Mr Deniz BAYKAL, Turkey, SOC ; Ms Gülsün BİLGEHAN, Turkey, SOC ; Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN, France, SOC ; Ms Bernadette BOURZAI, France, SOC ; Mr Gerold BÜCHEL, Liechtenstein, ALDE ; Ms Lise CHRISTOFFERSEN, Norway, SOC ; Mr Boriss CILEVIČS, Latvia, SOC ; Mr Michael CONNARTY, United Kingdom, SOC ; Ms Pascale CROZON, France, SOC ; Mr Yves CRUCHTEN, Luxembourg, SOC ; Mr Zsolt CSENGER-ZALÁN, Hungary, EPP/CD ; Mr Geraint DAVIES, United Kingdom, SOC ; Ms Josette DURRIEU, France, SOC ; Mr Mihai-Viorel FIFOR, Romania, SOC ; Ms Ute FINCKH-KRÄMER, Germany, SOC ; Mr Jean-Claude FRÉCON, France, SOC ; Mr Andreas GROSS, Switzerland, SOC ; Mr Tore HAGEBAKKEN, Norway, SOC ; Ms Carina HÄGG, Sweden, SOC ; Ms Tinatin KHIDASHELI, Georgia, ALDE ; Ms Astrid KRAG, Denmark, SOC ; Mr Pavel LEBEDA, Czech Republic, SOC ; Mr Terry LEYDEN, Ireland, ALDE ; Ms Guguli MAGRADZE, Georgia, SOC ; Mr Philippe MAHOUX, Belgium, SOC ; Ms Meritxell MATEU PI, Andorra, ALDE ; Mr João Bosco MOTA AMARAL, Portugal, EPP/CD ; Mr Zsolt NÉMETH, Hungary, EPP/CD ; Mr Michele NICOLETTI, Italy, SOC ; Ms Carina OHLSSON, Sweden, SOC ; Mr Bernard PASQUIER, Monaco, ALDE ; Mr Indrek SAAR, Estonia, SOC ; Mr Dimitrios SALTOUROS, Greece, SOC ; Mr Stefan SCHENNACH, Austria, SOC ; Ms Tineke STRIK, Netherlands, SOC ; Mr Björn von SYDOW, Sweden, SOC ; Lord John E. TOMLINSON, United Kingdom, SOC ; Ms Nataša VUČKOVIĆ, Serbia, SOC

Most estimates put the number of European citizens who have travelled to Syria to join the insurgency since March 2011 between 400 to 2 000, with significant contingents from France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Denmark and Belgium. According to Western intelligence officials, the flow of Westerners travelling to Syria is increasing at an alarming rate.

These young men – and, occasionally, women - come from different social classes and ethnic backgrounds. Push factors range from socio-psychological to ideological and religious factors, the latter possibly being less important than often reported. According to expert studies, the majority of people who leave now to fight are in some way mobilised through bonds of kinship or friends, facilitated by social media.

European fears of a spill over from the Syrian war were amplified recently when it emerged that a French citizen, arrested in connection with a deadly attack at the Jewish museum in Brussels, spent much of last year with jihadist fighters in Syria. Instances of post-traumatic stress disorder are probably underreported, which might also entail risks upon return from a foreign fighting arena.

As the issue is of utmost relevance to democratic security on the continent, and since the Council of Europe is becoming more and more actively involved in the region affected by the Arab Spring, the Parliamentary Assembly should:

  • raise awareness on the phenomenon of “foreign fighters” in Europe;
  • gain in depth understanding of this phenomenon by conducting research of the key push and pull drivers of “foreign fighters”;
  • provide recommendations for policy makers, civil society and other relevant actors to deter young European citizens from joining conflicts abroad and to deal with terrorism threats once they return.