Several Swedish cities have moved to offer Islamic State defectors support in finding jobs and housing to help them rejoin society.
Sweden’s secret service estimates around 300 people have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join terror networks. Almost half of them, 140, have since returned home.
The city of Lund is one of few communities in Sweden that’s been faced with an ISIS defector saying he wants to start over with a normal life. The city decided to offer the person the same benefits package as someone wanting to reintegrate to society after life of crime or drug addiction.
Depending on their needs, terrorists will receive help getting a place to live and a job to support themselves.
“When this subject came up we immediately thought: ‘Oh my god, how should we handle this,’ but fairly quickly we realized this should be treated the same [as someone defecting from organized crime],” Anna Sjöstrand, Lund’s coordinator against violent extremism, told public radio station SR. “This is the same worry as any given worry.”
The plan is supported by a report from the national coordinator against violent extremism. Christoffer Carlsson, the author of the report, said individuals who wish to defect from terrorism need this type of backing to be successful.
“It’s a social, economic and material issue,” Carlson told SR. “You need to be able to reintegrate to the job market. Maybe you need a drivers license, debt forgiveness and a roof over your head. When people want to leave they want to leave it for something else. If you don’t have resources for it, it’s hard to accomplish.”
The programs have been widely criticized by Swedes who feel the terrorists should get a one-way ticket to prison instead. Sjöstrand said she can’t think along those lines, and believes everyone deserves a second chance.
“Maybe there i such criticism, but for me it’s hard to think along those lines. You get the same help as everyone else seeking help from us,” Sjöstrand said. “We can’t say just because you made a wrong decision you don’t have a right to come back and live in our society.”
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