Two more Australians stripped of citizenship over links to the Islamic State
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Two Australians in Syria have been stripped of their citizenship over links to Islamic State, sparking family concerns about the status of their young children.
The stripping of the couple’s citizenship has been backdated to 2016 – before the youngest two children were born – leaving the wife and the children stranded in the notorious al-Hawl camp in Syria. The husband is in a Syrian prison.
The Department of Home Affairs says children do not lose their citizenship if their parent loses the right to be an Australian national.
The pair are among 17 people who have lost their rights to be citizens of Australia under laws that allow the government to strip the citizenship of dual nationals.
The development comes as a United Nations commission of inquiry on Syria raised the alarm about children of IS fighters being harmed if their parents were stripped of their citizenship and called for them to be repatriated to their home countries.
The couple, whom the family does not want named to protect the safety of the children, also have three older children in the al-Hawl camp.
The decision was made by the Citizenship Loss Board, a group of senior officials from across departments and intelligence agencies set up to enable dual nationals to be stripped of their Australian citizenship.
Advocate Kamalle Dabboussy, whose daughter Mariam is also in the al-Hawl camp, said he was concerned the two youngest children in the affected family were now in effect stateless.
He said the children would need to obtain Lebanese citizenship through their father, but they didn’t have any documentation.
“We do no not believe it is the government’s intention to make these children stateless and we do intend to write to [Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton] outlining our concerns,” he said.
“It is within the minister’s powers to reinstate this citizenship. The minister should, in the best interests of the children, overturn that decision.”
In a statement, the Department of Home Affairs did not comment on individual cases but said Australia took its international obligations on the rights of children seriously.
“There is no consequential loss of citizenship for a child if their parent loses their Australian citizenship,” Home Affairs said.
“A child born outside Australia is eligible to register for Australian citizenship by descent if at the time of their birth one of their parents was an Australian citizen.”
Save the Children director of international programs and policy Mat Tinkler said the UN report was a clear warning to all governments, including Australia, of the “dire consequences” for children of such decisions.
“The UN makes explicit that denying these children their right to citizenship puts them at higher risk of exploitation and abuse,” he said.
“We’re aware of a number cases where decisions by the Australian government may effectively render a child stateless.
“The Australian government has a responsibility to protect these innocent children, to act in their best interests. We genuinely hope they heed the UN’s warning, before it’s too late.”
The UN report raised concerns about children having a lack of documentation and rendering them effectively stateless.
“Moreover, stripping parents of their nationality has negatively impacted children, including their ability to exercise basic human rights,” the report said.
It also called on governments to recognise documents issued by non-state actors such as IS, saying that together with witness testimonies, these should provide a pathway to citizenship.
During the Syrian civil war, girls as young as nine have been raped and forced into sexual slavery and boys have been tortured and forced into military training, according to the report.
“After eight years of conflict, children in Syria have experienced unabated violations of their rights: they continue to be killed, maimed, injured and orphaned, bearing the brunt of violence perpetrated by warring parties,” the report said.
There are believed to be 20 Australian women and 47 children in the al-Hawl camp in northern Syria.