New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has accused Australia of “exporting its problems” for cancelling the citizenship of a dual national Australian-New Zealander who reportedly joined the Islamic State in Syria
On Monday Turkey’s Defence ministry said a 26-year-old New Zealand “Daesh terrorist” was being deported with her two children after Turkish border staff caught them crossing illegally from the northwest Syrian province of Idlib.
Media reports identified the woman as Suhayra Aden, who moved to Australia from New Zealand when she was six years old and lived in Melbourne before travelling to Syria on her Australian passport in 2014 to live under the so-called Islamic State.
On Tuesday an irate Ms Ardern said she had spoken with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison about the dual national in 2019 after she was detained with her two children after Western-backed Syrian Kurdish forces retook the final sliver of IS territory in Syria.
Mr Morrison then revoked Ms Aden’s citizenship without telling Ms Ardern, leaving New Zealand to deal with the dilemma alone.
“You can imagine my response,” she said, after learning the next year that Australia had acted unilaterally.
“Our very strong view on behalf of New Zealanders was that this individual was clearly most appropriately dealt with in Australia… That is where their family reside, that is where their links reside, and that is the place they departed for Syria,” she said.
Ms Ardern said the welfare of Ms Aden’s surviving children, aged five and two, was paramount. “These children were born in a conflict zone through no fault of their own,” Ms Ardern.
Ms Aden reportedly had a third child who died of pneumonia, after marrying twice in Syria to Swedish nationals who also both died.
Ms Ardern said Australia had “abdicated responsibility” for Ms Aden, who spent most of her life in Australia.
“New Zealand, frankly, is tired of having Australia exporting its problems,” Ms Ardern said. “If the shoe were on the other foot we would take responsibility, that would be the right thing to do and I ask Australia to do the same.”
But an uncontrite Mr Morrison said his only concern was the safety of Australians. “It’s my job as Australia’s prime minister to put Australia’s national security interests first,” he told a press conference.
Australian legislation to automatically cancel citizenship for dual nationals determined to have engaged in terrorism has been used against at least 17 people who reportedly joined IS.
The case highlights the unresolved issue of tens of thousands of prisoners left in limbo following the territorial defeat of IS.
Most are held in squalid conditions in the Al-Hol near the Iraqi border, though following hundreds of escapes from the sprawling camp authorities last year moved dozens of Western prisoners to the smaller and more secure Roj camp.
At one time up to 66 Australians, including 44 children, were believed to be in the camps, though the Australian government repatriated eight children in June 2019, and others may have escaped.
One New Zealand man is known to be detained in northeast Syria. Mark Taylor, who became known as the Bumbling Jihadi for revealing his location in posts calling for attacks on New Zealanders, has been held in a Kurdish jail since surrendering in late 2018.
Earlier this month a group of United Nations experts called on the 57 governments who are believed to have nationals in the camps to repatriate their citizens, following reports that 20 people were murdered in Al-Hol in January.