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Friday, December 09, 2022

Australia repatriates 17 people from camps in Syria

Venezuelans set up camp on US-Mexico border

Four women and 13 children were deported back to Australia on Saturday after years of languishing in detention camps in Syria following the fall of Islamic State (IS).

It is the first in a series of missions planned to repatriate 20 Australian women and 40 minors from the Al Holl and Rose camps: the wives, sons and daughters of IS fighters.

Home Secretary Claire O’Neill explained that the government weighed “a range of safety, community and welfare factors”.

“The decision to bring back these women and their children was based on an individual assessment after detailed work by national security agencies,” a statement said after the 17 arrived in Sydney.

Repatriation is a contentious issue in Australia, where conservative opposition says the group poses a threat to the country’s security.

According to O’Neill, women in Australia can be prosecuted if counter-terrorism authorities determine that they have participated in illegal activities in Syria.

Sophie McNeill, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, said repatriation is a long-standing issue.

“For years, the Australian government has left its citizens in camps in northeastern Syria in appalling conditions,” he said.

“Australia can play a major counter-terrorism role through the systematic repatriation of its citizens, most of them children who never chose to live under IS,” he said.

Since the fall of the IS caliphate in 2019, the returnees are living in detention camps in Al Hol and Roz in Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria.

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AFP

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