New Zealand has agreed that a suspected member of Islamic State who grew up in Australia can be repatriated from Turkey along with her two young children, a decision prime minister Jacinda Ardern said was “not taken lightly”.
The woman was a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen until Australia revoked her citizenship and refused to reverse the decision, prompting a furious response earlier this year from Ardern, who accused Australia of shirking its responsibilities.
On Monday, Ardern said the government had “taken into account our international responsibilities as well as the details of this particular case, including the fact that children are involved”.
“As most New Zealanders know, I made very strong representations to Australia that she should be permitted to return there,” Ardern continued.
“Her [the woman’s] family moved to Australia when she was six and she grew up there before departing for Syria in 2014, on an Australian passport. Unfortunately, Australia would not reverse the cancellation of citizenship.
“However Australia has subsequently assured us it will proactively consult with New Zealand if any such case arises in future.
“New Zealand is not able to remove citizenship from a person and leave them stateless, and as New Zealand citizens this country is the only place where they can currently legally reside.”
The woman and her two children were picked up by officials in Turkey in February when they allegedly tried to illegally enter the country from Syria.
Planning for the family’s return to New Zealand has involved the police and several other agencies, but the details of those arrangements will be kept private for security reasons.
Ardern said it was up to the police to decide whether any New Zealander who may be suspected of association with a terrorist group will be investigated under local law.
“Agreeing to a managed return was the right step in this case, but we reserve the right to look at any future cases on a case-by-case basis based on the best interests of New Zealand,” Ardern said.