Decision to repatriate Australian families with links to IS ‘not taken lightly’, Tony Burke says

Federal minister Tony Burke has stressed the government’s decision to repatriate Australian families with links to the self-proclaimed Islamic State was not taken lightly.
Four Australian women, who have been in the Roj camp in Syria since the fall of the terrorist group, as well as 13 children, arrived in Sydney on Saturday, following a secret operation.
Mr Burke defended the decision to repatriate the families, despite the links to the terror group.
“The government has made these decisions after being informed by the best national security advice, we need to remember the individuals we’re talking about here are Australians,” he told the Nine Network on Sunday.

“All of these decisions, nothing’s been taken lightly.”

The Albanese government earlier this month confirmed a rescue plan was in place for 16 women and 42 children who are families of IS members.
The first to be removed from Syria were assessed as the most vulnerable.
Nationals leader David Littleproud disagreed with the decision, saying Australian citizens needed to be kept safe.
“Sometimes governments have to take tough decisions, have to do it for the greater good, rather than the individual,” he told the Nine Network.
“I just hope that that can be translated to the Australian people, they get comfort, that these people have come back and pose us no risk into the future.”
Mr Burke said appropriate precautions had been taken.
“We need to remember a lot of the people we’re talking about here are children,” he said,

“Some of the women that we’re talking about were tricked in terms of their own personal circumstances.”

Most of the children were born in Syria, meaning they’ll be seeing Australia for the first time.
Germany, France and Denmark have also brought their citizens home from Syria.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has argued the extractions were not in the national interest, saying their arrival could raise the risk of future terrorism in Australia.

NGOs welcome repatriation, government urged to repatriate those remaining

International aid, human rights, and faith-based community organisations on Sunday commended in a joint statement the Australian government on bringing the women and children home from northeast Syria.
But they said there were still over 30 Australian children stuck in camps in northeast Syria.
“We urge the government to repatriate these children and their mothers as quickly as possible. We will not rest until every Australian child is brought home.”
Chief Executive of the Australian Council for International Development, Marc Purcell said it was “fantastic” the children had been brought back home.

“We should never be in a situation where Australian children are punished for the decisions of their parents and denied access to Australia,” he said.

Four Australian women, who have been in the Roj camp in Syria since the fall of the terrorist group, as well as 13 children, arrived in Sydney on Saturday, following a secret operation. Source: AAP / SAVE THE CHILDREN/PR IMAGE

Amnesty International Australia Refugee Rights Advisor, Dr Graham Thom said the young women and children desperately needed support.

“These Australian children and their mothers have been in truly horrendous conditions and suffering terribly, having been separated from their families in Australia for years.
“Anyone accused of any crime can face the judicial system in Australia in accordance with all of our rights to a fair trial. Australian authorities have substantial experience in dealing with these complex re-assimilation efforts, and we are confident they will be handled successfully and sensitively.”

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC) president Dr Rateb Jneid added that his organisation was “ready to offer our support to help them settle well into Australian society”.

Amid concerns, wives of IS fighters ‘willing to do whatever is asked’

But the news of the repatriations was not welcome everywhere, with the mayor of one of Sydney’s most multicultural districts saying on Saturday people in the community were concerned.
“The community is always in favour of repatriating refugees; we want to help women and children; we want to help people have a better life,” said Fairfield City Council Mayor Frank Carbone.
“But what the community is saying is that we want to support those who want to be part of us, not those who want to go away, turn their backs against us and fight against us.”
He added that there were also concerns for refugees in Sydney who might have been directly affected by the war in the region.

“A lot of our community members are refugees, they’ve been persecuted and ran away from ISIS, so I think this traumatises them and brings a lot of bad memories,” Mr Carbone told SBS News.

The four repatriated women, who had travelled to the country with partners who were members of the militant group, on Saturday expressed their gratitude and apologised for the trouble their links to Islamic State have caused.
“We are deeply thankful to be back home in Australia with our children,” the women said in a statement.
“We want to express our regret for the trouble and hurt we have caused, especially to our families.”
“We are willing to do whatever is asked of us by government authorities to ensure the safety of our families and the Australian community and we will fully co-operate with all Australian law enforcement agencies.”
The mothers, who were partners to IS members, could face continued controls, including ankle monitors and curfews, amid fears they had been radicalised while in Syria.

Additional reporting by Caroline Riches.

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