The Australian Council for International Development supports the decision by a group of Australian women and children to file a legal case in the Federal Court of Australia.
The group of 17 children and nine women, who have been trapped in detention camps in northeast Syria, have been seeking repatriation to Australia.
Save the Children Australia is the litigation guardian in the case, which formally requests the Australian Government to repatriate the Australian citizens immediately.
Said Marc Purcell, CEO of ACFID:
“We call on the government to do the decent thing and repatriate the children immediately. The government’s foot-dragging has gone on long enough. The intervention in the court comes after repeated requests over many months, even years, for repatriation.
“We hear a lot from the Australian Government about upholding the rules-based international order on the global stage; but until these Australian citizens are given their birth right to citizenship and to come here, it undermines the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the very international rules and norms it claims to support.”
The children have been living in uncertain and dangerous conditions for many years, and many are showing signs of deteriorating mental and physical health. The are the wives, widows and children of former Islamic State fighters who have died or are jailed.
While the Australian government has conducted two earlier repatriations – of eight children in 2019, and 13 children and four women last October – it has yet to address the needs of the final group.
“Children should never be punished for the actions of their parents,” said Mr Purcell.
“We note the absence in the recent Federal Budget of any resourcing from the Government to support the reintegration of the children into normal life. We call on the Government to urgently fund the relevant agencies so they can support the children’s reintegration.”
Save the Children Australia is a member of ACFID, and said this legal action is being pursued as a last resort, after other efforts to convince the Government to act have failed.
“Australia’s unwillingness to bring the remaining children home is a source of international shame,” said Mat Tinkler, CEO of Save the Children Australia.
A UN expert panel has repeatedly told Australia it has deep concerns about the deteriorating security and humanitarian conditions of detention in the camps.
A number of other countries have already safely repatriated dozens of children and their mothers from the camps, including the United States, Germany, France and Sweden.
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