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RAN Internal and External dimensions (RAN INT/EXT)

RAN Internal and External dimensions (RAN INT/EXT) focusses on the role of the diaspora in countering radicalisation and on the issue of “foreign fighters”.


The working group aims at raising awareness towards the phenomenon of "foreign fighters" in Europe, at sharing good practices and developing policy prescriptive recommendations in order to prevent people from leaving Europe for crisis zones to receive terrorist training or take an active part in combats.

A significant number of terrorist attacks or attempts in the EU involved radicals who were trained in camps abroad. By identifying and engaging people and groups at the community-level (including spiritual leaders and mass organisations) in Europe and in third countries (internal/external), who have the legitimacy, credibility and expertise necessary, one can marginalize and discredit the narratives associated with violent extremism and generate a positive paradigm, which facilitates social harmony and cohesion within EU members states and abroad.


The tasks of the RAN INT/EXT Working in the coming years are the following:

  • Through research and collaboration, the working group should gain an in depth understanding of the key motivational drivers of "foreign fighters"and the extent to which the problem affects Europe directly as well as its interests outside of Europe;
  • Provide clear recommendations for policy makers, civil society and other relevant Counter-terrorism actors to deter Europeans from joining conflicts abroad;
  • Compile good practices on how to detect and counter those who have already gone to conflict zones and have now come back to Europe with a potentially violent agenda;
  • Develop effective intervention strategies in the process of violent radicalisation of potential "foreign fighters".

Working Group updates

  • RAN INT/EXT discussed successful de-radicalisation practices for Foreign Fighters
    On 13 April 2015 in Amsterdam (NL), the INT/EXT working group discussed lessons learned for providing the best after-care programmes for different types of returnees: those who return disillusioned, those who return traumatised, those who return further radicalised and the “jihadi brides”. The practitioners present discussed these typologies of returned foreign fighters and focused on what specific de-radicalisation interventions and good practices work for the different groups. Some of the main takeaways were that theological discussion with severely radicalised returnees is counterproductive, and that "Jihadi-brides" are not necessarily always radicalised, but the ideological narrative provides them answers to issues such as seeking a (religious) identity, distorted family relations and/or emancipatory issues.

  • RAN INT/EXT held a meeting on 26-27 May in Berlin on re-integrating foreign fighters, with a focus on family support structures. The aim of the meeting was to create a workable model including reaching out to families, a de-radicalisation methodology and aspects of healthcare. The majority of the participants in the meeting are in direct contact with families of foreign fighters. Common and differentiating elements of family support were derived from their presentations of real-life case-studies. The meeting re-emphasized the need for family support structures to prevent radicalisation and/or help create a deradicalising environment. A legitimate point of entry, voluntary cooperation, focus on motivations and underlying values and ideas in the family, understanding the situation and tailor-made interventions that take into account the family as a whole, are all important elements in the approach. In a relevant number of the cases, family relationships are troubled or practically non-existent, in those cases it is good to evaluate whether the family or other people in the (social) network are best to involve.
  • RAN INT/EXT was invited by the Portuguese authorities to come to Lisbon on 12 March to provide them with information on the RAN, the RAN Collection of Practices and the phenomenon of foreign fighters. Some 80 practitioners attended the meeting. After presentations by DG Home, the RAN Secretariat and the INT/EXT Working Group leaders on the above mentioned topics, there was a lot of room for discussion with the practitioners on the Portuguese situation. The meeting provided a stepping stone for the Portuguese to develop a national strategy.

Older updates

  • On 16-17 September RAN INT/EXT held a meeting in cooperation with RAN PREVENT on community engagement and working with families in relation to foreign fighters to Syria. The meeting took place in Antwerp and was attended by some 48 practitioners. The focus of the meeting was to share experiences between practitioners who engage with (diaspora) communities and/or work with families of radicalised individuals or foreign fighters with the aim of extracting lessons on both the practitioner and policy level. Some of the key factors in good practices that came forward were:
    • Match objectives with interventions tailored to the specific context;
    • Building trust is essential, work with existing networks/ relationships;
    • facilitators/ key figures that speak the language (literally and metaphorically) for outreach purposes;
    • Developing community engagement through coordinated multi-agency efforts.
    These and more conclusions of the meeting are brought together in the Declaration of Good Practices with Foreign Fighters for Prevention, Outreach, Rehabilitation and Reintegration.
  • On 22 April 2013, RAN INT/EXT held a meeting in Amsterdam with some 35 participants, completely dedicated to the topic of foreign fighters travelling to Syria. Because of the urgent nature of this topic, the meeting was pushed forward from the original date on 10-11 June. The aim of the meeting was to obtain an accurate assessment of the numbers of those travelling from Europe to Syria, to examine the motivational factors for those undertaking the trip and to think of solutions and policy responses to deter those who travel and anticipate aftercare strategies for those who travel and return. Those in attendance included policy makers, government representatives, practitioners and academics.
  • The training of P&P staff was also mentioned as a recommendation in the second meeting of RAN INT/EXT on 8 November 2012 in Berlin, with nearly 20 attendees. This meeting focussed on the role of civil society, such as the families of (possible) travellers. The voices of formers and victims are essential. Mentoring was explored as a useful method. The recommendation not to focus on religion and ideology alone, was formulated in this RAN INT/EXT meeting as well. Emotional connection, confidence and attention for social issues are needed before religion and ideology can be discussed. The fact that women can play a productive role in deradicalisation was underlined.
  • RAN INT/EXT has had its kick-off meeting on 20-21 September 2012 in The Hague. More than 30 participants discussed the phenomenon of "foreign fighters" to get a common baseline picture on the phenomenon and to identify connectivity to the diaspora. The group intended to overview what had been already done about the issue both at government and civil society level and how effective it was. The participants also reflected on possible contribution from the RAN on the issue.
  • RAN INT/EXT policy recommendations   [135 KB] for the High Level Conference on January 29th 2013


Working Group leaders:

  • Magnus Ranstorp (Sweden)
  • Peter Knoope (The Netherlands)


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