In April 2021, following concerns raised by some European countries, UNICRI launched a research initiative to explore, assess, and understand the potential interplay between regular and irregular movements of people and the threat stemming from ISIL and Al-Qaida inspired terrorism in Europe. The research also looked at the risks posed by returning and relocating Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs). The recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the potential massive exodus of Afghans have led to heightened security concerns in European countries and Turkey. Indeed, there is a high risk of possible infiltration of individuals linked to ISIL-K and Al-Qaida among those trying to leave the country.
Given the current complex international security context and the various factors involved, the scope of the analysis has been kept intentionally broad. On the one hand, the report considers the impact of migration policies and border management regulations on the terrorist and extremist challenge stemming from ISIL and Al-Qaida. Specifically, it looks at the extent to which these prevent and/or monitor malicious actors to move throughout European territories (or to return to them). On the other, it focuses on the indirect effect that the socio-political environment of destination – be it the quality of reception conditions and/or the presence of anti-migrant sentiment and extreme right-wing activities – can have on the vulnerabilities of migrant communities, and hence ultimately, on creating a fertile ground for radicalization by ISIL and Al-Qaida supporters.
Where relevant, the report highlights differences in treatment and policies vis-à-vis citizens and aliens. When it comes to people’s movements across external borders, states are mainly concerned by extra-European citizens’ movements. However, movements of nationals or residents are considered within the scope of this report, as intra-EU movements are also relevant for this analysis. The latter category of movement will also be considered in the context of the return (and/or relocation) of FTFs.
The last section highlights specific recommendations and outlines programmatic interventions to be undertaken by UNICRI and partner entities in order to successfully address the identified priority issues.