JAKARTA - Indonesia has decided not to allow more than 600 of its citizens, comprising of what are believed to be Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters as well as their family members, to return home.
All are stranded in a refugee camp in Syria since US-led coalition forces defeated ISIS in March 2019.
"There is no plan to take back terrorists. We will not take back foreign terrorist fighters to Indonesia… For children below aged 10, we may consider case by case. We will see whether the minors are orphans," coordinating political, legal and security minister Mahfud MD told reporters on Tuesday (Feb 11) after meeting President Joko Widodo.
"The government is going to gather more valid data on how many there are, their identity and those who were involved in terrorism," added Mr Mahfud.
Citing data from the US Central Intelligence Agency, he said that there were 689 Indonesians stranded in Syria, but the identity of only 288 has so far been established.
The Indonesians who travelled to Syria to join ISIS reportedly burned their Indonesian passports and all forms of identification.
The issue of the stranded Indonesians was the subject of the meeting at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java. Other ministries and agency heads were also involved in the meeting.
The head of Indonesia's counter-terrorism agency, BNPT, Inspector-General Suhardi Alius disclosed in July last year that the government had set up a task force under Mr Mahfud to evaluate and come up with proposed options for Mr Joko to deal with the issue.
Tuesday's announcement has come against the backdrop of heated debate among Indonesians over whether to allow their countrymen and their families to return home.
Dr Sri Yunanto, an expert adviser to Mr Mahfud, had earlier said that the security concerns of neighbouring countries would be among the factors Indonesia would consider before deciding on the matter.