On this page you can read research publications on various topics, written by our REGUIDE members. The publications are divided in three main categories: REGUIDE Reports, REGUIDE Policy Briefs, Social Contributions, and Academic Contributions.


REGUIDE Policy briefs

Written by Coline Remacle, Isabelle Detry, Benjamin Mine & Patrick Jeuniaux (2023)

Since the beginning of the war in Syria in 2011, more than 5,000 European citizens have gone to the Iraqi-Syrian zone to join the various uprisings against the regime in place. With more than 500 nationals leaving for these conflict zones, Belgium has the highest ratio of people who have left per number of inhabitants and a return rate in the European average (+/- 30%). The social consequences of the return of these people to Belgian society pose several challenges for our country in the areas of justice, security, integration and more broadly democracy. The Belgian judicial authorities have decided to prosecute all adults who have left for these conflict zones. Today, a few of them have returned to Belgium (the “returnees”) and have started their reintegration process, often after a period in detention. This report constitutes the WP 4.2. deliverable in the framework of the REGUIDE research project ( and aims to carry out an inventory of the actors involved and the procedures put in place in the framework of the socio-judicial pathways of post-sentencing returnees.

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Written by Ward Yperman and Jogchum Vrielink (2022)

The first report in the Reguide project focuses on the legal framework applicable to returnees. This report sets the stage for the rest of the project and points out inconsistencies and issues with the legislation. The report covers the terrorism offences, certain criminal procedural topics, sentencing, the execution of prison sentences and a selection of the most relevant administrative measures. 

The main finding is that the rules are not always as clear as they could and should be. This comes as no surprise since the counter-terrorism legislation has expanded exponentially in the last twenty years in a piecemeal fashion without evaluation of the entirety of the framework. The main recommendation is therefore that such an evaluation is undertaken.

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Written by Ward Yperman and Jogchum Vrielink (2022)

Counter-terrorism has permeated the entire Belgian legal system and rules have been introduced out of counter-terrorism considerations throughout many branches of law. In alignment with the scope of the rest of the Reguide project, this report focusses on the legal framework relevant to people returning from jihadist war zones such as Syria. The Reguide project aims to develop a holistic, restorative and gendered approach towards the reintegration of returnees and their families into the Belgian society, and by doing that directly addresses two interrelated societal challenges: security and returnee reintegration. The issue of reintegration of returnees and their families is an important one for many countries and especially for Belgium, since it has one the highest ratios of returnees per capita in Europe. This report is one of the first steps in the Reguide project and has a double aim. Firstly, the goal is to describe the relevant legislation so as to set out the legal framework currently in force. This sets the stage for the rest of the project. Secondly, we point out some inconsistencies and issues within the legislation and make suggestions for how the legal approach could be improved.

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Social contributions

Academic contributions

Written by Montassir Sakhi and Brunilda Pali  (2023)

In the last few years, we have been involved in researching the topic of repatriation and reintegration of returnees from Syria and Iraq to France and Belgium. The topic is not the easiest one to research and to communicate about, especially with the public, so as researchers we are always interested in artistic forms that can enable the mediation and translation of our work, such as film, documentary, and theater. As researchers, we also look quite critically at works that aim at producing entertainment and sensationalism and fail to convey the complexity of the topic. Watching Rebel, an action film on the topic of our research, was therefore quite a risky pleasure.


Written by Benjamin Mine, Alexia Jonckheere, Patrick Jeuniaux et Isabelle Detry (2022)

Probation officers are required to provide support to those suspected or convicted of terrorism. A survey carried out in probation services in the French-speaking areas in Belgium shows that these cases are changing probation officers’ activities : they must now deal with a multiplicity of new and more intense working relationships, particularly those involving the security and intelligence services. Information management is at the heart of this new activity, an unprecedented change given that social justice work has always involved trying to maintain a balance between aid and control.

Written by Gerrit Loots and Hannan Jamaï (2022)

In this first report, we discuss two important themes that we believe deserve extra attention
in the repatriation and integration process of children returning from the detention camps
set in Northeast Syria. The report is based on what we have learned over the past three years
from our observations, reflections, (game) activities, informal conversations and interviews
with children, youth, mothers, grandparents, families, teachers and caregivers during our
participation in the reception, guidance and (re)integration of 28 of the 32 returning Belgian
children and teenagers.

Written by Benjamin Mine, Alexia Jonckheere, Patrick Jeuniaux et Isabelle Detry (2022)

Following the departure of many citizens to the Iraqi-Syrian conflict zones and the attacks that hit Europe, and Belgium in particular, the “maisons de jutice” have seen a massive increase in the number of cases relating to terrorism or violent extremism. How has this affected the activities of the judicial assistants? How do the judicial assistants deal with these cases? What management is imposed on them? What is their professional position with regard to the new security issue?  This article aims to contribute to the discussions on the influence of counter-radicalization and counter-terrorism policies on professional practices of social workers by examining the changes observed in social work in the justice system in French-speaking Belgium due to the increase in recent years in the number of terrorism cases and cases involving violent extremism (also called “terro” cases) that are handled by the “maisons de justice” (which are partly similar to the French probation services). The analyses are based on material consisting of qualitative interviews with judicial assistants and representatives of the management of local “maisons de justice.

Written by Isabelle Detry, Nadia Fadil, Hannan Jamai, Iman Lechkar, Gerrit Loots, Brunilda Pali, Coline Remacle, Montassir Sakhi, Jihane Sliti, Marijke Van Buggenhout, Jogchum Vrielink, Ward Ypermans.

This week six women and sixteen children have been repatriated from the camps in Northeast Syria. This is the second operation of repatriation and an important step in the right direction. But there is still some work though, for the childless women, the women who lost their citizenship and men whi were left behind. Click here to read our opinion piece in either French or Dutch.

Written by Elise Delhaise, Coline Remacle, and Chloé Thomas (2022)

The issue of the return of foreign nationals who have left to fight alongside the Islamic State has imposed itself on European states, which are not hiding their reluctance to organise their repatriation. In Belgium, this issue has been dealt with directly by the justice system, without putting an end to the political immobility. More broadly, the management of “foreign terrorist fighters” and their children bears witness to our conception of the fight against terrorism.

Written by Nadia Fadil, Marijke Van Buggenhout, and Els Dumortier (2022)

About 700 European children are stranded with their mothers in the detention camps in northeast Syria. They are children of European departees who travelled to the Levant after 2012 to join one of the fighting forces against the Syrian regime. Most European countries refuse to repatriate these children because of their parents, who are considered terrorists. This paper investigates the status of these children through the analysis of the political and media-debates and ongoing collaborative ethnographic research in Belgium. We argue that these children reside in a condition of virtual innocence, which is characterized by a continuous interrogation of their social, political, and ontological status as well as their right to life. This condition of virtual innocence also sheds a different light on the state of exception: rather than being expressed through a permanent ban, it becomes manifested through an undecided and pending inclusion into the bios.

Written by Elise Delhaise, Coline Remacle, and Chloé Thomas (2022)

Many European children were taken away by their parent(s) who left Europe to join the Islamic state. Since the fall of the Caliphate, these children are held in camps where violence and fear reign. Belgium has several children in these camps and the question of their repatriation is becoming more and more urgent in particular due to the deterioration of the camps’ living conditions. This contribution aims to outline the Belgian authorities policy position, the legal levers for considering such repatriation and the concrete conditions under which repatriation has already taken place.

Written by Nadia Fadil, Martijn de Koning, Anja Kublitz and Montassir Sakhi (2021)

2021 has been a busy year as several European countries have finally started repatriating their citizens. In the light of these recent operations, we have written a text evaluating these policies and addressing the many incoherences that still exist. For instance, whereas several countries have finally accepted to repatriate children with their mothers, many still refuse (e.g. France and The Netherlands). Furthermore, all EU countries refuse to bring back childless women and men. Our text has been published in several European Media outlets such as the French Mediapart, the Flemish daily De Morgen and the Dutch newspaper NRC.

Written by Thomas Van Poecke, Frank Verbruggen, and Ward Yperman (2021)

While armed conflicts are principally governed by international humanitarian law (IHL), activities of members of non-State armed groups and their affiliates may also qualify as terrorist offences. After explaining why the concurrent application of IHL and criminal law instruments on terrorism causes friction, this article analyzes the chief mechanism for dissipating this friction: a clause excluding activities governed by IHL from the scope of criminal law instruments on terrorism. Such armed conflict exclusion clauses exist at the international, regional and national level. This article explains how an exclusion clause can best avoid friction between IHL and criminal law instruments on terrorism.

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