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Plan to bring ISIS brides and children home to Australia poses ‘unnecessary risk’

The Opposition is asking questions over federal government plans to bring home dozens of Australian women and children from detention camps in Syria.

The Labor government is set to implement a rescue plan to bring 16 women and 42 children who are the families of Islamic State members and have been held in al-Roj detention camp in northeast Syria near the Iraqi border.

A secret ASIO mission into Syria has cleared the way for the families to be repatriated to Australia, The Australian reported on Monday.

They have been held in detention for three and a half years following the fall of Islamic State in March 2019.

Some of the women say they were taken to the Middle East against their will.

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Karen Andrews says she didn’t give the green light when she was the relevant minister in government due to the risk of sending Australia officials to war-torn regions and radicalisation concerns.

The Labor government is set to implement a rescue plan to bring 16 women and 42 children who are families of Islamic State members and have been held in al-Roj detention camp in northeast Syria near the Iraqi border (pictured, women in northeastern Syria in 2019)

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Karen Andrews (pictured) says she didn't give the rescue mission a green light when she was the relevant minister in government

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Karen Andrews (pictured) says she didn’t give the rescue mission a green light when she was the relevant minister in government

‘There was always a very strong view women, in particular, went there by choice… and they were complicit, generally, in the role they were expected to play… to support ISIS and foreign fighters,’ she told the ABC.

Ms Andrews said bringing them back to Australia ‘posed an unnecessary risk and enormous cost’ to have these people in the community.

‘I’ve seen nothing to alter my view,’ she said.

Federal frontbencher Tanya Plibersek said it was important the women and children receive counselling upon their arrival.

‘We have about 40 Australian kids living in one of the most dangerous places on earth in a refugee camp,’ she told the Seven Network.

‘Some of the women, the mothers, were taken there as little more than children themselves and married off to (Islamic State) fighters. Some of them were tricked, some of them were forced to go there.’

A top secret spy mission to refugee camps in Syria has paved the way for stranded Islamic State brides and their children to return to Australia - reversing a years-long ban by the Australian government (ISIS fighters pictured)

A top secret spy mission to refugee camps in Syria has paved the way for stranded Islamic State brides and their children to return to Australia – reversing a years-long ban by the Australian government (ISIS fighters pictured)

Federal frontbencher Tanya Plibersek (pictured) said it was important the women and children rescued from east Syria receive counselling upon their arrival in Australia

Federal frontbencher Tanya Plibersek (pictured) said it was important the women and children rescued from east Syria receive counselling upon their arrival in Australia

Many women who fled Australia to marry ISIS fighters or join their husbands, said they were coerced into leaving (pictured, an Iraqi refugee at the al-Hol camp in 2017)

Many women who fled Australia to marry ISIS fighters or join their husbands, said they were coerced into leaving (pictured, an Iraqi refugee at the al-Hol camp in 2017)

The Labor minister said there would be an expectation that security organisations would stay in contact and monitor those repatriated.

But Ms Andrews said control orders giving Australian authorities surveillance powers were not easy to get and maintain.

Her colleague and Opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan said it appeared the security situation had changed to allow for the repatriation after the reported  ASIO mission.

But he added that anyone who had broken the law, such as going to declared zones where the Australian government had banned visits, should face prosecution.

Up to 16 woman and 42 children being held in northeastern Syria's al-Roj detention camp near the Iraqi border, will be repatriated in the coming days (pictured, northeastern Syria in 2019)

 Up to 16 woman and 42 children being held in northeastern Syria’s al-Roj detention camp near the Iraqi border, will be repatriated in the coming days (pictured, northeastern Syria in 2019)

Kamalle Dabboussy pictured with his daughter Mariam Dabboussy (right) and her daughters Aisha (left) and Fatema in al-Hawl camp in northeastern Syria

Kamalle Dabboussy pictured with his daughter Mariam Dabboussy (right) and her daughters Aisha (left) and Fatema in al-Hawl camp in northeastern Syria 

‘If they have broken the law, yes they should be charged,’ he told Sky News.

Ms Andrews said she expected some would be charged and imprisoned upon their return to Australia.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie questioned why the report had come out in the newspaper before the mission was complete.

‘This is actually quite surprising by ASIO to say that they’re going to do this when they haven’t done it yet,’ she told the Nine Network.

She also questioned why the government hadn’t been able to bring over Afghan interpreters facing prosecution by the Taliban for helping allied forces during the war.

‘They seem to have given up on (them),’ she said.

In 2019, then Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton played down the prospect of repatriation, saying some of the women had the potential ‘to come back here and cause a mass casualty event’.

Most of the Australians that had ventured off to join the fight or support the cause were either killed in action or fled to refugee camps (pictured, al-Hol refugee camp Syria 2017)

Most of the Australians that had ventured off to join the fight or support the cause were either killed in action or fled to refugee camps (pictured, al-Hol refugee camp Syria 2017)

The Australian government had a hardline policy of refusing citizens re-entry - stripping many of their passports under tough anti-terror laws (pictured, al-Hol refugee camp Syria 2019)

The Australian government had a hardline policy of refusing citizens re-entry – stripping many of their passports under tough anti-terror laws (pictured, al-Hol refugee camp Syria 2019)

A spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said any decision on repatriation is informed by national security advice

‘So it would not be appropriate to comment further’, the ABC quoted the  spokesperson as saying.

Save the Children Australia chief executive Matt Tinkler has been campaigning for the women and children to be repatriated, and told the ABC it would be ‘welcome news’ if they were returned.

‘These are innocent children and families that have been in these camps for more than 3.5 years now,’ he said.

‘Children have died in these camps over the last few years. I saw firsthand for myself that some of the Australian children are severely malnourished and have suffered significant mental harm.

‘Their repatriation can’t come soon enough.’

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