VUB child psychologist Gerrit Loots investigates integration of Belgian IS children

VUB child psychologist Gerrit Loots investigates integration of Belgian IS children

Insights are presented in website and book

In June 2019, Belgium repatriated six children aged between six and 18 whose parents were Belgian IS fighters. The repatriation of children and their mothers from camps in Syria and Iraq has met a great deal of social and political resistance here and in other European countries. To facilitate the return of these and other children, VUB child psychologist Gerrit Loots has begun studying the integration of the returnees and where improvements can be made. The aim is to ensure successful social integration through developing good practice in the support and care of the children and their families.

Professor Loots and scientists from VUB’s Faculty of Sociology, the interfaculty research group Voicing Youth at Social Risk (VOICE) and psychotherapist Hannan Jamai will follow the six children, their families and the care professionals involved for 2.5 years to map out the integration process through their eyes. The researchers will organise, among other things, in-depth monthly conversations with the individual family members, creative games sessions with the children and focus groups with the entire family and care providers. The findings will then be compiled on a website and in a practical book on the reception, care and social integration of children and young people who have found themselves in situations of social polarisation and violence.

For two years, we have been working on the return of the children using scientific arguments and medical and psychological research to refute and break through the polarising discourse in society, where the idea that these children pose a serious threat to society because of traumatisation, early indoctrination and radicalisation is perpetuated,” says Professor Loots, who was awarded the 2019 Human Rights Prize from the League for Human Rights last Saturday for his rescue missions. “This not only prevents the return of children and their mothers but also hampers the provision of care and social integration after repatriation. With this new research project, we want to ensure successful repatriation and social integration for the young people who have recently returned from Syria, but also for the 35 younger children and their mothers who are still detained today in Kurdish refugee camps. I continue to advocate the repatriation of IS children to our country out of respect for children’s rights and human rights.”

For more information:
Professor Gerrit Loots
Gerrit.Loots@vub.ac.be
0476/97 33 31

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