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Research report: Updated review and developments in jihadist radicalisation in Switzerland – updated version of an exploratory study on prevention and intervention

At a glance


Based on the study ‘Background to jihadist radicalisation in Switzerland’ (Eser Davolio et al. 2015 with a sample of 66 jihadist-motivated travellers), the research status and current level of data available are analysed using an increased sample of jihadist-motivated persons. In comparison to studies from neighbouring countries, a largely similar picture emerges in terms of relevant push and pull factors. Male, Muslim, second-generation persons aged between 21 and 35 years of age with a relatively low level of education and links to peers with similar orientation are overrepresented in the sample. Particular importance is also attached to the phenomenon of conversion. In view of the fact that around 40% of the persons surveyed (N=130) receive state welfare benefits,  relevant follow-up questions are raised here with regard to resocialisation and reintegration. In relation to the challenges in the prison system, the interviews with prison directors show that considerations are made and strategies applied regarding placement, execution of sentence, separation and institutional and individual monitoring when dealing with radicalised jihadist inmates. As long periods of pretrial detention are common in such cases, there is generally little scope for measures, such as therapy and reintegration. Concepts for dealing with radicalised inmates and promoting resocialisation and disengagement must be developed, approaches regarding cantonal ‘core extremism groups’ or the involvement of Muslim spiritual advisers must be further elaborated and monitoring of potential risks – particularly concerning the protection of potentially endangered fellow inmates – must be driven forward.  As far as prevention is concerned, the extremism specialist units have increased from two in 2015 to nine now and the bridge-building specialist units from three to eight (as at May 2019). In particular, cities and cantons which experienced high levels of jihadist radicalisation have recruited specialists and developed expertise on prevention. As low-threshold points of contact, they can usually clear up the uncertainties that radicalisation phenomena or associated situations can trigger and contribute towards  resolving issues by advising the persons involved as second-level prevention. In contrast, the bridgebuilding specialist units primarily focus on building trust and dialogue with mosque associations as well as providing information in the field of asylum as part of radicalisation prevention. This means they play a key link role between the Muslim organisations and the police and other administrative bodies. In summary, individual cantons and cities expanded prevention units between May 2015 and May 2019, but they are still far from available nationwide in the overall context of Switzerland. While progress has been made and experience accumulated in prevention and intervention, there are still gaps in the fields of disengagement and reintegration of radicalised jihadist persons.  

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