Another edition of the family day was organised by project Reguide on the 15 October 2022 with families of departees and returnees to and from Syria and Iraq. The aim of this edition of the family day was the sharing of stories, the identifying of needs and challenges and the strengthening of bonds together and in a safe space. The day was organised in two parallel tracks: adults’ track and children’s track.
In the adults’ track the space was shared with family members of departees and returnees (mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers). The morning session was dedicated to sharing of stories and identifying of needs and challenges more generally. What transpired from this session generally was great suffering and feeling of isolation, stigmatization, helplessness and abandonment on the part of the families.
The afternoon session focused more specifically on the impacts that are created in the lives of the families by the ‘contact’ with the justice system (police, courts, prison, and probation). Issues that appear quite concerning here remain the prosecution of families for terrorism and financing of terrorism and the material, emotional, and relational damage created by the freezing of assets, travel bans, contact ban, and most importantly for the returnees themselves, removal of nationality.
Another session focused on the challenges that families are facing in relation to repatriation of their children and other family members (sisters, daughters-in-law, grandchildren). More specifically, there is a lack of information about and contact with those who are still in the camps or prisons of Syria and Iraq where the humanitarian situation is dire. Recognising that it is important to repatriate men as well -and not only women and children-, they expressed some hope about the more positive position expressed by the new Counter-terrorism Coordinator Ilkka Salmi on this issue.
The children’s track focused on the children of departees or returnees. During the morning session, the children spent time together with child psychologists through play and learning. In the afternoon, the specific needs that foster families have in relation to the reintegration of the children were discussed. An acute issue remains the amount and type of information that is shared with the children by the foster families, and the right way and time to do this.
Together with the children we undertook a journey through wonderland. During this fantasy journey we did various activities where our senses were challenged. Our first stop consisted of an introduction to a Sherborne activity where the children could become aware of their bodies and the space around them through movement and play. During the second stop, the children were able to experiment with different musical instruments to achieve a harmonious whole. Even though we really enjoyed the sounds and the fun we have had, a little more practice is recommended!
Before reaching our last stop, we stopped in the magical forest where we went through the different seasons and experienced emotions such as sadness, anger, fear and joy. Finally, we ended up in a room where the children were encouraged to fantasize about a safe and pleasant place for them. They were able to give shape to their favorite place with various craft materials. We were taken into their inner world, before ending the day with a moment of relaxation.