Police say Indonesians refuse deportation from Turkey

Although the Turkish government has agreed to deport 16 Indonesians it detained for allegedly trying to cross its border to join the Islamic State (IS) organisation in Syria, the detainees declined to return to Indonesia and insisted on continuing on to the war-torn country.

Acting National Police chief Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti said on Tuesday that the group had balked at the Turkish government's offer.

"The Turkish government wanted to return the 16 Indonesians but these people refused. All of them refused to be sent back to Indonesia," Badrodin said at the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta.

On March 4, the Turkish government notified the Indonesian government that it had arrested and detained 16 Indonesians, comprising one man, four women and 11 children, since January. They are being held in the Turkish border city of Gaziantep, 97 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria.

Separately, National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Marciano Norman said on Tuesday that the Turkish authorities and Indonesian government had mulled two options - whether to repatriate the 16 Indonesians or find another country that could offer them asylum.

The two governments were considering the second option, as there were indications that the 16 Indonesian nationals had sold all their assets in Indonesia and had "brought members of their families to the Middle East country to look for a better life".

"If they are brought home, they will have nothing left. But again, the [Indonesian] government has an obligation to provide protection for its citizens," Marciano said, suggesting that the Indonesian government could repatriate them.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said Jakarta had yet to decide on how to proceed.

Tedjo also confirmed that the 16 Indonesians had rejected their repatriation as "they had sold all their belongings" to pay for the trip.

Meanwhile, National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head Comr. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said Indonesia had dispatched a special team, comprising personnel from BIN, members of the National Police and officials from the BNPT, to monitor the 16 Indonesians in Turkey.

"Our team is still trying to communicate with the Turkish authorities to establish the condition of the 16 Indonesians. Turkey wants to return them to us but we still don't know when they will be deported," he said.

When asked about the whereabouts of another 16 Indonesians that separated from their tour group in Istanbul earlier this month, Saud said the Turkish authorities were still searching for them.

Last year, the BNPT claimed that 514 Indonesians had gone to Syria and Iraq to fight with IS militants from June to October.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said recently that the number was closer to 600.

Although some speculated that many Indonesian IS fighters were recruited from Poso, Central Sulawesi, - a regency known to be home to local militant groups - Badrodin said the number of local IS hubs was increasing.