Managing Indonesia’s Pro-ISIS Deportees

[Jakarta,  17 July 2018] Indonesia urgently needs a strategy for assessing, monitoring and where possible reintegrating its citizens who tried to join Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) but were caught and sent back before they could do so. As of mid-2018, well over 500 men, women and children had been deported, mostly from Turkey. After a rudimentary two-week to one-month rehabilitation program at a government shelter, most were allowed to return home without further monitoring.

“Managing Indonesia’s Pro-ISIS Deportees”, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, looks at the waves of migration to Syria and the increasing difficulties of crossing the Turkish border. The number of deportees peaked in 2017 with over 200 sent back. The report has statistical data on the backgrounds of the deportees, noting that 56 per cent of the adults in one survey were women and 30 per cent of the adults had some form of tertiary education. It also looks at motivation.

“The majority of those surveyed left to join ISIS because they wanted to live in a pure Islamic state,” says Sidney Jones, IPAC director. “It is important to recognise that many of the ‘deportees’ (those who did not make it across) and ‘returnees’ (those who did but who returned voluntarily) were never combatants.”

The difficult task facing the Indonesian government is to determine who among the deportees is a potential danger, because for some, the frustration of not having reached Syria has made them even more determined to wage war at home.  Police and social workers were using a rudimentary risk assessment tool, but even when deportees were identified as likely troublemakers, the question was not just how to monitor them but for how long and by whom.

The report says that a good program would consist of a more structured debriefing and counseling program when the deportees return;  a specially trained team of social workers with offices in different parts of Indonesia that could be deployed to work with new groups of arrivals and in an ongoing support role with deportee families; a mentoring program, especially for adolescent children; and a training course for local officials to understand the deportees and how to balance vigilance with reintegration into community life.

Download article:

©2013 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.