National Security

Here’s How ISIS Is Getting Kids to Join Its Terrorist Ranks

ISIS propaganda video
Screenshot from an ISIS propaganda video / AP

The Islamic State is recruiting unaccompanied child refugees who are migrating to Europe to join its ranks by paying their smugglers' fees and giving the asylum-seekers food and money, according to a think tank report.

The terrorist group is offering up to $2,000 for children on migration routes to Europe as well as to Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, the London-based Quilliam Foundation wrote in a new report.

Many of the children, who ISIS believes are easier to radicalize, are fleeing the Syrian conflict, which is now in its sixth year.

The refugees are also more susceptible to being indoctrinated because of their lack of basic day-to-day needs, according to a co-author of the report.

"That's actually incredibly effective when a young person has been separated from their family and they're just trying to get by day to day. ISIS are able to fill those basic services," Nikita Malik, a senior researcher at Quilliam, told the Independent.

While some refugees pay smugglers $560 for passage to the Mediterranean coast, ISIS offers free passage and up to $1,000 to join the jihadist group, as well as food.

The children are then sent off to different locations to carry out acts of terror or employed as "cubs of the caliphate" in Iraq and Syria, where the group still controls territory despite efforts by a U.S.-led coalition to destroy it.

Quilliam underscored the caliphate's "overwhelming obsession" with young children in the report.

"Children and young people who are recruited and trafficked by ISIS are an important resource, as they allow the group to convey a sense of future for itself as a state," the report said.

Between January and September of 2015, over 340 children traveling alone went missing and 132 remained missing at the end of the year, according to Quilliam.

This does not mean that all of the children were radicalized, however.

"Some run away for the fear of not being granted asylum, others fall victim to abduction, trafficking, sexual and economic exploitation, and extremist groups," Quilliam wrote. "The risks of radicalization begin in early recruitment strategies preying on short-term vulnerabilities and immediate needs of those trapped in conflict zones, and persist into the journey itself."