Minister for Home Affairs, Clare O’Neil, is meeting with western Sydney Mayors today to discuss their concerns about the repatriation of wives and widows of Islamic State (IS) militants and their children from Syria.
In a media appearance yesterday, the Minister said the return of the women and children was the safest option for Australia.
“They are at some stage in the future going to be able to make their way back to Australia, and so the question for us as Australians is what is the safest path forward here? Is it to let these children grow up in a camp where they are subjected to radical violent ideologies every day which teach them to hate their country, or is it better to bring them back in a planned manner now, so that we can control their re-entry and try to allow those children to grow up with Australian values?” the Minister said.
“So, this is fundamentally a national security question for the country and one in which with regard to these specific individuals, the right thing to do is to bring them back to Australia.”
Fairfield City Mayor, Frank Carbone, says the repatriation puts at the risk the safety of all Australians.
“The Government needs to guarantee people’s safety and security especially after ASIO has torn up the passports of these people, the Mayor said.
“They went overseas and affiliated themselves with those fighters… We need to know they are zero risk. How much risk do we need to take?”
Minister O’Neil maintained she’d had “really constructive” discussions with western Sydney community leaders on the subject prior to today’s meeting.
“I think people in those communities have got really legitimate questions about the ways in which we’ve thought about community safety with regard to this. And I’ll be there with the Australian Federal Police and also a representative from our security agency in Australia who assisted us in advising on this repatriation, and we’ll be able to answer those questions,” she said.
“The individuals at the heart of it have been individually assessed as low risk by ASIO. And I will have the police with me [today] and ASIO representatives to speak about what’s been put in place to support the transition back into the community.
“Now, I believe in consulting and having these conversations because people are entitled to have different views about this. Of course they do. But what my experience in dealing with this matter is when I’ve got the opportunity to sit down and talk to people about the fact that if we don’t do this now, it’s not like these people disappear. It’s not like they cease to be Australian citizens. This is a problem that has to be managed and we can’t just put our heads in the sand and pretend that these individuals don’t exist.”