The New Yorker looks at what happens when Europeans join ISIS and then, for whatever reason, come home. Questioned by Federal police upon their return, none will claim to have taken part in any battle, and that they were, instead, doing "menial tasks" like cooking and cleaning. Unfortunately, except in some cases, it is almost impossible to charge any of them because "nobody really knows what they did abroad."
In the last few years, more than four thousand Europeans have abandoned their home countries for the jihadi battlefields of Syria and Iraq, and close to a thousand have quietly returned. Many are questioned by police and intelligence services, but the number of prosecutions among the European Union's twenty-eight member states remains shockingly low. A memo penned by Gilles de Kerchove, the E.U. Counterterrorism Coordinator, says that, as of December, there had been "around ten convictions" of foreign fighters with European citizenship or residendy. "The judical response," he noted dryly, "does not reflect the scale of the problem."
In Europe, Denmark is second only to Belgium in jihadi fighters per capita, but the two countries' approaches to returnees have diverged sharply. The Danish Security and Intelligence Service has estimated that at least one hundred and fifteen Danes have fought in Syria, most of them with ISIS. Some have died, but roughly half are now back home in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark's second-largest city. It is a crime, in Denmark, as in Belgium, to join or train with any terrorist organization, whether or not the government can prove a violent act was committed in a distant war zone. Still, charges have not been publicly filed against a single Danish returnee.
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