"These are not ticking time bombs!"

Some 160 children of Belgian IS fighters are still in Syria and Iraq.  Last week Gerrit Loots, a professor of psychology at the VUB and child therapist, visited refugee camps in Syria together with the director of the children's agency, Child Focus, Heidi De Pauw, to see for themselves the situation of Belgian children in these camps.

They examined fifteen children identified by VRT's Rudi Vranckx last March.  The researchers had expected to find severely traumatised children, but this wasn't the case.  They found children like any others.

Rudi Vranckx spoke with Prof Gerrit Loots (pictured left) following his return: "It is total madness to assert that the children are ticking time bombs.  I possess not a single indication to assume that these children will become murderous machines.  These children can live as well as any other child and build a life for themselves and grow up to become empathetic and people-loving adults.  Let me be clear: I'm talking about the children up to six years of age that I visited in the camps.  Older children that have been trained to kill by IS, that's a different story."

"What the children now need is to grow up in a stable environment without being stigmatised.  They should be followed.  They have to be able to build a future.  Then they will be able to digest their traumas."

"If they are not brought back to Belgium they could still become ticking time bombs.  You have to look at the context in which they grow up.  Are they brought back despite all the suffering that the supporters of the IS ideology inflicted? Then they will have a different place in life than if they are abandoned."