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Support for criminal gang leavers also used on former terrorists

Published tisdag 18 oktober 2016 kl 10.23
The city of Lund in southern Sweden, where the municipal council has a programme for helping people leave violent extremism.
The city of Lund in southern Sweden, where the municipal council has a programme for helping people leave violent extremism. Credit: Emil Langvad/TT

Around 140 people have so far returned to Sweden after having left violent groups in Syria and Iraq, and some Swedish local councils are prepared to use the techniques they have pioneered to use with people who leave criminal gangs.

The municipal council of the southern city of Lund has a programme in place that helps people who want to leave behind a life of violence and crime. It involves help with housing, employment and cleaning up debts.

This way of working is supported by a report from the National Coordinator Against Violent Extremism, The report’s author, Christoffer Carlsson, says that people who want to leave extremist groups often need support to do so.

“It is a social, economic and material issue. They need to be reintegrated into the labour market, they maybe need a driver’s license, help to get out of debt and a roof over their heads.”

The municipalities of Malmö, Borlänge and Örebro have a similar view of how to help.

Some people have criticised the idea of giving support to former members of terrorist groups. Sweden recently made so-called “terror trips” illegal.

Lund’s coordinator against violent extremism, Anna Sjöstrand, says as long as people have served their sentence for illegal activity, they should be treated the same as anyone else.

“We cannot say that because you made a bad choice you don’t have the right to come back and live in our society.”

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