What is gained by stripping ISIL returnees of citizenship?

While I agree citizenship revocation is counterproductive, I find this to be an overly sympathetic view of the women who supported ISIL, given the difficulties is establishing what they did and did not do during their time there, not to mention the difficulty in laying charges and securing convictions:

The first ISIL recruit I interviewed, in 2014 in Delft, the Netherlands, was a 22-year-old woman who had become an ISIL bride after being indoctrinated by a recruiter. It took the recruiter two months of continuous communication online to convince her to join what he called “the cause” and to be “part of the global struggle against the atrocities of the West.”

After months of clandestine planning, Zoleikha (not her real name) cautiously set out for the airport, ready to step aboard a flight to Iraq. She had followed every detail of the recruiter’s guidance except one: She left a short note to her family, telling them of her decision.

The family had suspected something was up. Zoleikha had been evasive for a while, and they had got in the routine of searching her room for clues when she was out of the house. When her father found the note, his heart skipped a beat and he could barely breathe. He knew what he had to do. Not more than an hour went by before the authorities stopped Zoleikha as she was about to board the plane.

I spoke with her father, a man of Moroccan descent, who owned the local dry-cleaning business. He was a hard-working family man. Of his four children, one was in high school and three had graduated from college, including Zoleikha. He had built a new life for his family and hoped his children would prosper.

He and his family followed some cultural traditions and occasionally attended mosque services. But it was important to him that his children assimilate into European culture. When he found the note, he remembered an Imam who had spoken about the challenges of radicalization and the need to be vigilant about recruiters within their community. The Imam had encouraged partnership with the local government and trust of the authorities.

Out of desperation, the father called the authorities. He told me he had done it for his daughter’s sake and for the sake of the country that had given him a new beginning. Zoleikha never reached Iraq. She was arrested, and then she was lucky enough to be released conditionally under court supervision.

There are many women who were not fortunate enough to have such an intervention. By most estimates, approximately 5,000 European citizens have been recruited to Iraq and Syria by ISIL since 2013. Many of the women left family, freedom and fortune to pursue an uncertain future. They arrived in Syria and Iraq, and what happened to them after that is a mystery. However, now, with the demise of the Islamic State, they are contemplating returning to the countries they left behind.

In Europe, conversations about the fate of returnees have intensified since the UK Home Office decided to strip British citizenship from Shamima Begum — who joined ISIL at 15 along with two other schoolgirls from the UK. The question for us as a society is: What do we do in these cases? Is appropriate to indiscriminately strip members of such a heterogeneous group of citizenship?

Debate has focused on legal questions that surround such a move, which would cause the troublesome dilemma of creating stateless individuals. However, human rights and counter-terrorism strategies deserve more consideration than they have gotten.

There are three main factors to consider in the complex matter of ISIL recruits who want to come home.

Why they left their home country

The first step is figuring out whether those who joined ISIL qualify as foreign terrorist fighters or whether they just went along for the ride. Some of the recruits have carried out unspeakable acts, but there are others who have supported ISIL through nonviolent means (as jihadi brides) or were forced to go along (wives and children).

It is vital to understand the spectrum of active participation to passive victimhood, as it has become clear that some of the women have suffered repeated traumas while having little willful participation in ISIL activities. Of course, few cases are likely to fall at the extremes of the spectrum. The majority of returnees likely will fall somewhere in the middle.

We need to approach the way we deal with these returnees across a spectrum. At one end of the spectrum we can imagine rare instances where an individual would be welcomed home without retribution and would re-enter society. There might also be exceptional instances where revoking citizenship and/or meting out the harshest punishments is appropriate. A case-by-case approach would help in the determination of what is a proportional response and appropriateness of criminal investigations.

How vulnerable to coercion were they?

The global terrorism database suggests that a leading factor in the ultimate decision to pursue a life of terrorism is a sense of societal alienation. This can be particularly heightened in young people whose sense of self is still developing and who suffer from self-estrangement. My field work shows that those who have sought to join ISIL from Western countries are not poor or uneducated, although poverty and lack of education are typically possible factors leading to vulnerability.

Alienation has been described as a leading driver, particularly among second-generation immigrants. Those who experience feelings of alienation seek empowerment, identity and a purpose often in misguided ways. Counselling can help with identity crisis, however, youths can fall into recruiters’ traps of before any such help arrives. This is not to release all blame and culpability for unforgivable actions. But many of the young women who were coaxed into joining the cause with a promise of identity and empowerment were subject to further alienation and subjugation. A person whose vulnerabilities have been exploited is quite different from one who knowingly and purposefully seeks out “the cause.”

The circumstances of their return

No country wants to threaten the security of its citizens by welcoming with open arms anyone who has been radicalized and continues to hold on to a jihadi mission. However, not all of those who wish to return are still aligned with “the cause.” Some returnees admit that they lived through nightmare experiences that were nothing like what they had been promised. And now they feel regret and remorse.

Policy-makers and academics can work with former recruits and terrorists and tell their stories in compelling ways so that others can learn why they started on a terrorist trajectory and see how it did not work out. They can shed light on the coercive tactics used by recruiters and ultimately help to devise counter-terrorism strategies that are not reactive but rather preventative.

In the world of securitization and advanced terrorism studies, the goal of counter-terrorism is to prevent attacks. Populist extrajudicial rulings against returnees, for example stripping them of their citizenship, could weaken and drastically derail these long-term prevention efforts by deepening society’s divisions. They could also create a perfect breeding ground for further radicalism. By allowing people who joined ISIL back into their home countries and putting them on trial, we can reduce such risks and furthermore create societal benefits.

As Fiona de Londras shows, upholding human rights and the rule of law does not hamper our ability to act. It enhances it, and is essential to the long-term success of counter-terrorism efforts.

Of course, until the police and courts determine whether and to what degree the returnees are culpable, returnees should be put in some sort of penitentiary facilities. If the courts find them guilty, they have to be sentenced for their crimes. If the courts and the police agree that they do not pose a substantial danger (be it through radicalization of others or inflicting violence), returnees should enter into a reintegration program that will help them re-establish familial and community ties. These returnees need help to find ways to participate in society and to address the alienation they might have experienced. Reintegration is important in the long term to reduce the risk of radicalization – both for the individual and for society. It fosters belonging, which is something the politics of fear cannot do.

These returnees might well serve as the best source of data. In counter-terrorism studies, field research is very limited. Because of security and access restrictions researchers often depend on incomplete secondary accounts and analysis. Working with returnees would allow us to better align counter-terrorism measures with the forces that activate terrorism, thereby achieving the goal of deterrence and perhaps prevention.

Disillusionment and disengagement in returnees can serve as cautionary tales for others by illustrating the false realities of joining such a mission. Stripping citizenship and other arbitrary punishments only support the extremist belief that the West does not care about the rest (i.e., Muslim citizens), leading to further escalation by pushing marginalized individuals and communities farther away from mainstream society. Such acts breed mistrust, making it less likely that marginalized groups will approach authorities when there is a problem of any kind.

“Why did you want to join ISIL?” I asked Zoleikha. She looked conflicted. “What could be greater than being part of building a new state?” she responded. She still seemed to be grappling with her identity.

Her father was relieved that he had been able to stop her before it was too late. And if she had been stripped of her citizenship? Perhaps it would make the next scenario where a father discovers his daughter about to join ISIL a different one. Perhaps that father would not do what Zoleikha’s father did: Report her to authorities, which prevented her from joining ISIL.

Source: What is gained by stripping ISIL returnees of citizenship?

The re-returnees: They came to Hong Kong for the hustle. Now, with China encroaching, they’re coming back to Canada

Interesting trend of returnees:

The sheen of opportunity and adventure that made Hong Kong into one of the world’s great gateways – the City of Life, as it calls itself – has dulled for some as the cost of living rises and the grip of China tightens.

According to a recent survey, nearly a third of the Hong Kong population is thinking about leaving the city of 7.4 million. Canada, as it has in the past, is playing an outsize role in their search for an alternative; Hong Kong has boasted an estimated 300,000 Canadian passport holders, enough to rank the Asian financial centre as the equivalent of one of Canada’s 20 most populous cities.

Many Hong Kong residents fled the island for Canada before it came under Chinese rule in 1997 – fearing Beijing’s power. They later returned for jobs. Now, the current of human movement has once again shifted, moving back toward Canada. It is for some a third cross-Pacific move. They call themselves the “re-returnees.”

“People are thinking twice about staying in Hong Kong,” said Eugene Ho, an entrepreneur who is president of the local University of British Columbia alumni chapter. It is holding a session on Tuesday to guide people through the process of moving back to Canada, from sorting through taxes to securing a mortgage and finding the right school for their kids.

A third of Hong Kong’s population wants to leave, says a survey released by the Chinese University of Hong Kong earlier this month. Their top reasons were “too much political dispute” and social rifts, overcrowding and dissatisfaction with local political institutions. Fifty-one per cent of those between the ages of 18 and 30 want out. They cited Canada as their most desired destination. Canadian immigration data show that the number of people from Hong Kong applying for permanent residency in Canada increased by 50 per cent in 2016, to 1,360, and has remained at that elevated level.

What those figures do not count, however, are the people who already hold Canadian passports, and who are slipping back across the Pacific.

They are people such as Harjeet Grewal, 39, a Cantonese speaker who was born in Hong Kong but is disturbed by its changing political environment and influence from Beijing. “You have to be careful what you are saying and I don’t want to live in that kind of climate for the long term,” Ms. Grewal says.

John Luciw has his own reasons. Mr. Luciw, 51, a long-time Hong Kong resident who plays in a Tragically Hip cover band, runs a news site for expats and is now so done with the city’s brutal cost pressures that, “I don’t even know if I’m going to come back for a visit.”

And 45-year-old Andrew Loo, a banker, decamped for Vancouver to escape a high-pressure education system in a city where he was once told his six-year-old daughter was “average at best” when she interviewed for a primary-school spot.

Mr. Loo embodies the shifting currents that have carried people to and from Hong Kong. Born in the city to a father in the shipping industry, his family moved to Vancouver when he was 10. They were, like many families, worried about what would happen to Hong Kong when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997, an anxiety that prompted an extraordinary tide of emigration, particularly to Canada, which offered relative proximity and a welcoming environment. In 1994 alone, 48,000 people arrived from Hong Kong.

But when the worst fears about Beijing rule failed to materialize, the tide very quickly reversed course. Mr. Loo was among the droves who returned – a flock of 65,000 between 1996 and 2011, according to a South China Morning Post analysis.

In the summer of 2001, he and the woman who became his wife travelled to Hong Kong for the Dragon Boat Carnival. Canadian-educated and a Cantonese speaker, he found himself in demand. “I had two job offers in a very short span of time,” he said. Hong Kong, the land of opportunity, had hooked another young Canadian.

It’s “a very easy place to get used to,” he said. Taxes are low, jobs are relatively plenty, salaries can be high and domestic help inexpensive.

He married and had three children, building a comfortable career as a banker, with three nannies and a driver. But he began to think about Canada as his three children began to move through a fiercely competitive school system that, famously, interviews toddlers. “It’s just ridiculous,” Mr. Loo said, not to mention stressful – both for students and their parents living in the city.

He adds, “there’s no such thing as work-life balance.” He wasn’t the only one raising questions. “Our friends are around the same age and their kids are the same. And they’re all thinking the same thing” – go to Canada. In 2017, Mr. Loo and his family moved back. His daughter was 10, the same age as Mr. Loo when he first moved to Canada.

There is “a bit of symmetry there,” he says.

Others are coming behind them. Take Mr. Luciw, who arrived in Hong Kong in 1999 and dove into the thrills of being young and “wild and crazy” in the city. He became the general manager of AsiaXPAT.com, a news and discussion site for expatriates. But he himself is now keen to exit expat life. “As I’ve gotten older, this place has lost its lustre for me,” he says. He has two children, and “when you have kids here, it sucks. It’s expensive. There’s a lack of things to do. You may think it’s a paradise, but it’s not.”

He’s already sold his apartment, booked his tickets to Canada – after one last show with Phantom Power, his Hip cover band – and picked the minivan he intends to buy. He wants his kids to live in a house with a backyard, not a cramped apartment an elevator ride from the outdoors. “I was watching them not have a childhood I think they deserved, that I can give them by being a Canadian citizen,” he said.

Ms. Grewal, meanwhile, cites the changes in a city that is increasingly being brought under the thumb of political masters in Beijing. Chinese security services have seized people from the city, while new bridge and rail links have more deeply enmeshed Hong Kong with mainland China. Activists for democracy and independence have been banned from political participation, and a proposed new rule outlaws insults to the Chinese national anthem.

“I just felt constricted,” Ms. Grewal says.

When Keelan Chapman moved back to Hong Kong three years ago, he didn’t expect to find himself with a front-row seat to a Canadian exodus.

Mr. Chapman runs the Canadian Real Estate Investment Centre Hong Kong, a company he created three years ago to help people in Asia buy property in Canada. He figured his clients – who meet him in Hong Kong’s skyscraper forests of buzzy coffee shops and swish boardrooms – would be investors moving cash into Vancouver’s exuberant housing market.

What he has found instead is people looking to buy homes for themselves.

“My main clients in Hong Kong tend to be Canadians looking to return to Canada,” he says.

Hong Kong’s participation in China’s economic rise has helped make the city wealthy. But it has also made Mandarin an increasingly important language for those in business and banking, tilting advantage toward job seekers from mainland China. Indeed, that may be exactly how Beijing wants it, suggests David Zweig, a Canadian who is a scholar at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, where he has researched the movements of Chinese students.

China “may be very glad to have a new cohort of young college graduates come down here, graduate and then work here – and replace the Hong Kongers,” he said.

At the same time, at least some of those loading children and possessions on planes bound for Canada are being replaced by younger people winging their way into Hong Kong. Some of what drew Mr. Loo to Hong Kong two decades ago remains true today. Jobs are available, taxes are low and salaries can be high.

Kale Law, 26, was born in Hong Kong but moved to Canada with his mother in 1997. They came back to Hong Kong, where he attended high school, before he returned to Canada for university. Now, he’s back in Hong Kong again, working at a small content company with an office in a warehouse converted into a co-working space.

“Hong Kong seems to be the crown jewel for a lot of young professionals wanting to hustle,” he says. Even Ms. Grewal may come back. She has yet to find a job in Canada, while she has a half-dozen offers in Hong Kong. She also finds herself chafing at Vancouver’s slower pace. “It just doesn’t fulfill me the same way Hong Kong does,” she says.

Still, Mr. Law isn’t sure how long he can last. He figures he will stay until he is 30, at which point he, too, may join the march out of the city – alongside his mother and father.

“A lot of the older generation, which is my parents’ generation, they can’t wait to get out of Hong Kong,” he said.

Source: The re-returnees: They came to Hong Kong for the hustle. Now, with China encroaching, they’re coming back to Canada