Foreign Fighters under International Law and Beyond

pp 489-516


Caught in the Crossfire: The Impact of Foreign Fighters on Internally Displaced Persons, Asylum Seekers and Refugees from Syria and Iraq

  • Francesca ViettiAffiliated withScuola Superiore Sant’Anna Email author 
  • , Mike BisiAffiliated withScuola Superiore Sant’Anna

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Foreign fighters, heading to and returning from Syria and Iraq, are considered a global threat by the international community and governments worldwide (Council of the European Union 2014. UNSC Resolution 2178 2014, p. 1). Foreign fighters further exacerbate the violence and the human rights abuses perpetrated both by the regime and the non-State armed forces, hampering the precarious human security of civilians and ethnic minorities, leading to flows of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), refugees and asylum seekers. This chapter seeks to explore the complex, multifaceted links between IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers, and foreign fighters in three main geographical areas: Syria and Iraq, their neighbouring countries and the European Union. It analyses the reasons why people in need of protection may be obliged to use the same routes as foreign fighters and the relevant implications. In particular, it focuses on the impact that the actions of foreign fighters on the one hand, and the policies to detect them on the other hand, may have on the human rights of IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers. This chapter further explores the possible pushbacks against refugees and asylum seekers due to the fear of foreign terrorist fighters in mixed migration flows. Finally the contribution considers UNSC Resolution 2178 (2014) requiring States to ensure that refugee status is not abused by foreign terrorist fighters and the extent to which it follows UNSC Resolution 1373 adopted following the 9/11 attacks. This chapter concludes with some remarks, which may be instrumental in reducing the impact that both foreign fighters and State measures to counter them, may have on IDPs, refugees and asylum seekers.


IDPs Refugees Asylum seekers Foreign (terrorist) fighters Human rights Syria Iraq