CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA (AP) – Four women and their 13 children who were held in a Syrian camp since the Islamic State (IS) group fell in 2019 have become only the second group of Australians to be repatriated from the war-torn country, Australia’s government said yesterday as political opponents warned the families to pose a domestic security risk.
In confirming the latest group’s arrival in Sydney, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the newcomers could face “law enforcement action” if a counterterrorism investigation team of police and security officers found evidence of any offence.
The mothers, who were partners of IS supporters, could face ongoing controls including ankle monitors and curfews or could be charged with entering the former IS stronghold of al-Raqqa in Syria.
Australian officials had assessed the group as the most vulnerable among 60 Australian women and children held in the al-Roj camp in northeast Syria. Eight offspring of two slain Australian IS fighters are the only other group to have been repatriated by Australia from the Syrian camps. The fighters’ children and grandchildren were returned by the previous Australian government in 2019.
Opposition Home Affairs spokesperson Karen Andrews called on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to explain what steps had been taken to ensure the wider Australian community would be safe from the potentially radicalised arrivals.
Albanese said he would follow all security advice on what risk the women and children posed, but did not divulge what it was. “Our first and only priority is to keep Australians safe,” Albanese said.