NZ-Australia row erupts over ‘terrorist’ dual national

WELLINGTON (AFP) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern angrily accused Australia yesterday of shirking its responsibility for a dual national arrested in Turkey with alleged links to the Islamic State militant group.

Ardern said the woman had been a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen until authorities in Canberra cancelled her passport, leaving her situation to Wellington to deal with.

In an unusually blunt message to her counterpart Scott Morrison, Ardern said Canberra was “wrong” to expect New Zealand to accept the woman, who she said had strong ties to Australia.

“Any fair-minded person would consider this person an Australian and that is my view too,” Ardern said in a statement. “We believe Australia has abdicated its responsibilities.”

The 26-year-old woman was arrested with her two children near the Syrian border this week by Turkish authorities, and identified as a member of the Islamic State Group.

Local media reported the woman had been taken to a Turkish court in the southeastern province of Hatay for interrogation.

The Turkish Defence Ministry described the family as New Zealand nationals who had been trying to enter the country “illegally from Syria” and “were caught by our border guards”.

But Ardern said the woman had not lived in New Zealand since she was six, and so it was “wrong that New Zealand should shoulder the responsibility” for her.

Morrison defended his government’s decision as in “Australia’s national security interests”.

“We do not want to see terrorists who fought with terrorism organisations enjoying privileges of citizenship, which I think they forfeit the second they engage as an enemy of our country,” he said during a press conference in Canberra.