ISIS recruits from the Asia-Pacific

The biggest threat to national security, involving migrants, is the ISIS’ reach to vulnerable migrant groups to recruit them. ISIS is known to be actively recruiting fighters and families from wider Asia, including Rohingya fleeing Myanmar and seeking asylum in Indonesia and Malaysia, Uighurs in Xinjiang, Tajik migrants in Russia and even migrant Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong.[i] As of November 2015, approximately 700 Indonesians and around 100 Malaysians are now fighting for ISIS.[ii] Southeast Asia has been identified as a key recruitment centre and possible targets for attack as part of their strategy for a global caliphate.[iii] There have been more than 100 arrests of ISIS supporters in Malaysia and Indonesia. Several Singaporeans and even a teenage South Korean high school student reportedly joined ISIS.[iv] Having no bright future of settling in safer and more developed countries or being rejected from asylum application, Rohingyas can become easy targets for ISIS.


An estimate 700 Indonesians have gone to join with ISIS



ISIS recruiters have developed delicate, personal and emotional means to radicalise alienated Muslims and persuade them to join ISIS from the Asia-Pacific region.[v] They are using social media to approach socially alienated and economically frustrated Muslims in the community, often targeting migrants and refugees in order to recruit them and their entire families and offering illusionary visions of future, sanctuary, living allowance, housing and school fees. It is not just isolated individuals but whole families that are being lured out to become part of the ISIS as it needs not just fighters but also cleaners, chefs, teachers, nurses, doctors, bankers and lawyers to build a proper state.[vi] This is going to be the biggest migration-border security issue in the region in the coming years.


[i]Eilish O’Gara, ‘Isis look to recruit Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar’, Newsweek, 2 June 2015,; Shannon Tiezzi, ‘Chinese Official: Uyghurs Joining Islamic State’, The Diplomat, 12 March 2015,; Daniil Turovsky, ‘How Isis is recruiting migrant workers in Moscow to join the fighting in Syria’, The Guardian, 5 May 2015,; Lim Ruey Yan, ‘ISIS militants said to be wooing maids in Hong Kong’, The Straits Times, 20 March 2015,


[iii] Josh Rogin, ‘ISIS making alarming inroads in South-east Asia’, Bloomberg View, 29 May 2015,


[iv]Lim Yan Liang, ‘Countering the ISIS threat to Singapore and the region’, The Straits Times, 1 November 2015,; KJ Kwon & Madison Park, ‘Police: Korean teen may have fled to Syria to join ISIS’, CNN, 23 January 2015,


[v]Jennifer Newton, ‘95% of foreign fighters who join ISIS are recruited by friends and family and radicalisation ‘rarely occurs in mosques’ claims Oxford University terrorism expert’, Daily Mail, 25 November 2015,; USAID, ‘Indonesian and Malaysian Support for the Islamic State’, 2015,


[vi] Jay Akbar, ‘The terrifying rise of ISIS in East: Terror horde recruits tens of thousands to its sick cause in south-east Asia’, Daily Mail, 13 August 2015,; Francis Chan, ‘Indonesia ‘keeping an eye’ on ISIS returnees’, The Straits Times, 27 November 2015,


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