Homeland Security Minister Ali Ihusaan has emphasised the ongoing challenge of radicalisation in society, noting that there are individuals desiring to join foreign conflicts on religious grounds.

Briefing the media on the government’s efforts on repatriation and rehabilitation of families from internment camps in Syria, Ihusaan noted that these repatriated families, including 21 Maldivians, are part of a broader group of over 90 Maldivians who wish to return from Syria.  Highlighting the issue of radicalisation and pointing to the ordeal of repatriated families, the minister urged the public to promptly report to relevant authorities if they come to know of anyone harbouring aspirations to join conflicts in foreign countries.

The repatriation efforts, which began under the previous government, involve complex processes of identification and arrangement for safe return. The recent operation, which included the transfer of one man, five women, and 15 children to a rehabilitation centre in Himmafushi, Kaafu Atoll, highlights the government’s commitment to this issue.

The repatriation process is not just about bringing these citizens home but also involves their reintegration into society. The centre has had success in rehabilitating families previously repatriated from war zones. A family that returned in early 2022 has been successfully reintegrated, demonstrating the potential for rehabilitation and normalisation.

This effort is part of a larger strategy to address the challenge of Maldivians joining extremist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. The Maldives has the world’s second-highest per capita rate of people fighting for ISIS, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. In response, the government has implemented various counter-terrorism measures, including amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Penal Code to enhance investigation powers and address hate crimes.

The minister has stressed the importance of public vigilance and reporting any information on individuals exhibiting radical behaviour.