Refugee camps in Syria and Turkey are filled with young people separated from their parents. According to a new report by the British Think Tank Quilliam, these young refugees  have became easy targets for recruitment by jihadist groups such as the “Islamic State” and are being sent to Europe. How do we protect young refugees from the clutches of terrorism?

The UK-based think tank Quilliam foundation reported that  the “Islamic State” or “IS” exploits the needs of children in refugee camps and their willingness to go to Europe. They have thus begun recruiting underage refugees directly from the camps.

“The recruitment of minors is not just limited to the camps themselves but also to the areas that ‘IS’ controls. They have set up private schools to mobilize and indoctrinate the children into joining them” said Jassem Mohammad, the director of the European Center for Counterterrorism and Intelligence, to Infomigrants.

They use different methods to recruit minors and due to “the children’s difficult living conditions, they are easy targets for recruitment,” continued Mohammad.

The jihadist groups pin the blame on the West for the deteriorating situation in Syria and also for the lack of moral responsibility by Western countries in welcoming refugees. The jihadist groups “present themselves as defenders of refugees and cultivate a hatred of the West in the childrens’ heads in order to recruit them,” he added

The ‘Islamic State’ lures the young refugees from their strongholds in Syria and Iraq where they “exercise a type of influence over the children by giving them weapons and a good salary.” In the camps, “the Islamic State gives them money to go to Europe” and plants “extremist thoughts in their heads” according to Mohammad.  They also pay smugglers money to transport the young refugees to Europe, which was referenced in the Quilliam report.


Jassem Mohammad, director of the European Center for Counterterrorism and Intelligence

Protecting minors from recruitment

When asked by Infomigrants if these minors  recruited by “IS” represent a danger to Europe, Jassim Mohammad replied “Yes, they are a ticking time bomb. These young people are outside of the scope of the intelligence services. They also do not possess any form of criminal record. International sympathy is with these young refugees.” which makes it less likely for them to arouse the suspicion of intelligence services if one of them carries out an attack in Europe.

Mohammad also added that “the child refugees also could be involved in operations outside of terrorist attacks such as spying or collecting information for ‘IS”

Mohammad believes that protection for these minors in the camps can only be achieved if “Turkey allows international organizations such as human rights and child protection groups to monitor the children in the camps and take care of them." European countries that harbor these refugees should also provide protection and care for them, especially those who may have extremist tendencies.

Earlier reports suggested that hundreds of child refugees in European countries have gone missing. Not only were they suspected of being recruited by organizations like “IS” but also of having been exploited by gangs and other criminal organizations in illegal activity. According to those reports, they are forced to engage in hard labor or sexual acts in poor conditions and for little wages.

Translated from Arabic by Wesley Dockery

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