This question is inspired by articles such as this one, describing how various Western countries have citizens that fought for ISIS and now do not want to repatriate them. There are obvious reasons for this reluctance, the most important of which is probably how repatriating these refugees could lead to future terrorist attacks.

Why don't countries that are experiencing population decline (e.g. Japan, South Korea, Latvia) take them instead? The argument being:

  • They're experiencing population decline. They're offering incentives for their citizens to procreate. Taking these refugees amounts to getting a few thousand new citizens for "free", which should be desirable.
  • The danger of terrorist attacks on them should be lower, since it seems the terrorists are only interested in attacking the West, and none of these countries are in "the West".

Assimilating could be a problem, but especially in the case of children, relatively easy (since children learn languages easily). Financially it could be a problem, at least initially, but presumably the Western countries would be happy for others to solve their problem. Finally finding foster families could also be a problem, but it's apparently being done in some places, so it's a solvable one.

I'm wondering if this has been seriously discussed, and if so, what the conclusions (to do / not to do this) were.

  • 3
    Your second point is based on a misconception. Jihadists are interested in attacking anyone who is not Islamic. And quite often, anyone who does not follow their particular version of Islam, or adhere to it with sufficient stringency. See for instance Pakistani jihadist attacks on India, and on fellow Pakistanis.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 25, 2019 at 5:06

3 Answers 3


Because the (global) supply of would-be immigrants generally exceeds (global) demand of actual places that do allow immigration. Generally speaking, countries that are experiencing population declines and could benefit from immigration in this respect are reluctant to let people in anyway. It's not like they don't experience immigration because of lack of would-be immigrants. The EU for example is spending billions of euros preventing asylum seeker from Syria from reaching its territory via Turkey, and similarly for would-be "economic immigrants" from Africa.

Countries like Japan or even some Eastern European countries have nowadays allowed temporary workers in some sectors like construction etc., i.e. based on sectoral need and specific skills. (Apparently there are move Vietnamese in Poland or the Czech Republic than there are Syrians.) Someone living in an ISIS camp probably has a hard proving these skills with a credible resume.

And the people gathered in ISIS camps are hardly desirable as-is as immigrants anywhere, unless you want to start a civil war or Islamic insurrection in your country... The/your idea that these people only hate the West is silly, they hate even other, less extreme Muslims enough that "deprogramming" efforts have been tried in countries like Saudi Arabia or reintegration programs in Iraq... with pretty mixed success. Why would a country that is looking to fill shortages in e.g. construction bother to set up such chancy programs to bring in former ISIS members/families when there are plenty of Vietnamese flocking for the same positions and they are regarded to a large extent as "safe" migrants? (See previously linked article on Poland for that assessment.)

There's a mantra in hiring contexts, also emphasised by the SE founder, usually phrased as "when in doubt, no hire". It probably applies to would-be immigration as well. In summary, the people in ISIS camps are hardly competitive as would-be immigrants from the perspective of potential immigration (or even temporary work) countries.


Part of the political debate in Germany about refugees does involve demographics. Some people argue on the basis of abstract numbers and population pyramids, and from time to time there are news reports of relatively xenophobic rural populations who suddenly find that their alternatives are closing the village primary school or finding some more students.

  • Refugee rights advocates argue that shelter from persecution is a right, and should not depend on how many people the recipient country needs this year, this decade. Because then the doors can be shut again when they are needed most.
  • Immigration sceptics argue that the country would be better served by a points-based system or similar, taking well-educated, vetted immigrants from similar cultures instead of traumatized refugees.
    Countries like Germany or the UK have massive immigration from other EU countries, which does not even requires points or applications because of EU rules.
  • This doesn't seem like an answer to the question unfortunately. Countries like the UK and Germany aren't experiencing population decline; as you mention there are already lots of people who want to move there. The countries I'm thinking of - Japan, Latvia, etc - are actively losing people, e.g. politico.eu/article/… If one is losing 18% of population in 18 years, a few thousand extra citizens seems like a good thing.
    – Allure
    Nov 25, 2019 at 7:08
  • 1
    @Allure, many German states have a serious population decline, and all have an unbalanced age structure.
    – o.m.
    Nov 25, 2019 at 16:23

Why should they take these people? To do so would be to encourage the misbehavior of the nations the created ISIS. ISIS came into being because the American coalition authority in Iraq disbanded the Iraqi army. Why should Japan, South Korea, etc. have to clean up after the US's mistakes?

Just because these countries are experiencing population decline does not mean that they are desperate to take random foreign people from the middle east. Especially if there may very well be violent extremists hiding among them.

  • I do not understand your answer. By the logic in the OP, they are not cleaning up after the US's mistakes, they are explicitly (and selfishly) acting for their own good.
    – Allure
    Nov 25, 2019 at 4:19
  • The reasoning that taking ISIS refugees is good for them needs supporting arguments.
    – klojj
    Nov 25, 2019 at 4:34
  • This is simply false.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 25, 2019 at 5:07
  • @jamesqf Never heard anyone contend that "needs supporting arguments" is false before.
    – klojj
    Nov 25, 2019 at 6:24
  • 1
    @user45266: Yes, I thought it was obvious that I was referring to the answer rather than the comment, and in particular the groundless claim that the US is somehow responsible for ISIS.
    – jamesqf
    Nov 26, 2019 at 17:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .