Repatriating Dutch jihadists from Syria has cost the government millions

The repatriation, prosecution and supervision of people who went to Syria during the civil war, and have since returned to the Netherlands, has cost the government many millions of euros. The exact amounts are not yet clear, according to a letter sent to the Tweede Kamer by Justice and Security Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz and Legal Protection Minister Franc Weerwind.

The lack of clarity over the amount of money involved is because of the confidentiality of aspects of repatriation and bringing someone to trial. Additionally, the costs differ per individual and cannot be easily compared, the ministers claimed.

The ministers did provide insight into the costs of reception, monitoring and provision of assistance to the children of those who returned from Syria. This alone has totaled 6.5 million euros so far. It concerns 39 children since the first repatriation in 2020. The minor-aged children take part in a special process to guide and help them after often being a part of a traumatic experience.

The aim is that the children “grow up safely, healthy and free from extremist influences” after their return, the ministers wrote. The children are examined for trauma, attachment issues and ideology by the National Advisory Team for Minor Returnees (LAT) and other experts. This costs 8,000 euros per child. In addition, there is a youth protection team that is specifically available for these children, and child protective services are also involved.

For adults, the repatriation and criminal intervention also costs many millions. About 7 million euros per year is available through an earmark in one specific fund that allocates money just for personal monitoring after completion of a prison sentence. Incarceration in a maximum security ward for people convicted of terrorism offenses, such as in the prison in Vught, is also 635 euros per day more expensive than a normal prison cell, because of the additional staff that is needed. The same applies to the probation service, because those convicted of traveling to Syria to fight are assigned two supervisors instead of one, as is more common.

The ministers emphasized that the Cabinet’s position is still that those who traveled to Syria to take part in the civil war should be tried in that region, but this is not possible. At the same time, the Cabinet wants to prevent a criminal case from escaping prosecution if the defendant concerned is not brought before a court in the Netherlands on time.

If that happens, they can potentially return with impunity. According to the ministers, the costs incurred for repatriating citizens who traveled to Syria, and their children, outweigh the security threat, and other risks and danger that potentially arise.

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