[27 August 2019] Indonesia urgently needs to move forward on a policy for repatriating its nationals in Syrian camps and prison. The security situation is deteriorating, and the camps are becoming a new area for ISIS activity. The Indonesian government could begin now to repatriate some of its most vulnerable citizens (unaccompanied children, for example), while postponing any decision about some of the adults.
“Indonesia: Urgent Need for a Policy on Repatriation of Pro-ISIS Nationals from Syria”, the latest briefing from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), suggests that Indonesia, like other countries faced with the same dilemma about what to do about pro-ISIS nationals stranded in camps and prisons in Syria, can begin now to identify vulnerable groups and prepare pilot projects for return, rehabilitation and reintegration.
“There’s no need to wait for an all-encompassing policy to begin to bring back those most at risk,” says Sidney Jones, IPAC director. “The government doesn’t have to decide what to do about 200 people – it can start with five or ten.”
The briefing explores the pros and cons of repatriation and some of the problems that the government faces, from verifying nationality to assessing risk in the cases of adults and adolescents who may have been child soldiers to preparing potentially hostile communities to receive returnees.
It notes that in addition to women and children in the camps controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, the SDF is also holding several Indonesian combatants in its most secure prison, including three who have expressed a desire to return. They would be arrested, prosecuted and likely convicted upon return, but they might also be able to provide valuable intelligence that could help prevention efforts at home.
“The problem is that the longer the government delays taking action, the greater the likelihood of intimidation in the camps and the higher the political risks of repatriation," says Jones.