‘Last resort’: government faces legal action to force repatriation of Australians from Syrian refugee camps

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Australian mothers and children held successful a Syrian detention campy volition instrumentality the Australian authorities to tribunal successful an effort to compel the authorities to bring them home.

Seventeen Australian women and 9 children – the wives, widows, and children of slain oregon jailed Islamic State fighters – held successful the Roj campy successful north-east Syria, volition record a writ of habeas corpus successful the national tribunal connected Monday morning, arguing that Australia has “effective control” of their detention and the powerfulness to acceptable them free.

The radical members are each Australian citizens and reason they person a ineligible close to instrumentality to Australia.

Most person been held successful squalid and convulsive detention camps much than 4 years: children are suffering from untreated shrapnel wounds, malnourishment and superior intelligence illnesses. Some Australian children were calved successful the campy and cognize nary beingness extracurricular it.

Save the Children Australia, acting arsenic litigation guardian successful the case, said that ineligible enactment was “a past resort”, but it had been near with nary prime but to instrumentality the Australian authorities to tribunal “formally requesting … [it] basal by its motivation and ineligible work to repatriate its citizens immediately”.

“This is simply a regretful but resolute action, borne of fear, suffering, frustration, and despair,” main enforcement of Save the Children Australia, Mat Tinkler, said.

Australia has already undertaken 2 palmy repatriation missions from the detention camps successful north-east Syria. In 2019, 8 orphaned children, including a large teenager, were returned to New South Wales from the camps.

And past October, 4 women and 13 children were brought backmost from Roj camp, besides to NSW, with the authorities offering a committedness it would repatriate the remaining Australians erstwhile it was safe, and officials were capable to bash so.

Of the women returned to Australia past year, one, Mariam Raad, has been charged with entering, oregon remaining in, a “declared area” successful 2014 – Syria’s al-Raqqa province, which was past nether the power of Islamic State – successful breach of national law. Her lawsuit is earlier a NSW court.

Tinkler said the elation and anticipation raised by past year’s repatriation had been replaced by a bitter despair.

“The repatriations past October raised the remaining children’s hopes that they excessively would soon beryllium retired of harm’s way. Instead, they consciousness they person been abandoned by their state and are losing anticipation for the future.”

There is peculiar interest astir a fig of teen Australian boys. Boys, connected reaching 11 oregon 12 years of age, are often separated from their families by the Kurdish forces moving Roj camp, and taken to big prisons, ostensibly retired of interest implicit their imaginable radicalisation. The UN has repeatedly warned that boys taken from their families are astatine hazard of being “forcibly disappeared, and taxable to sale, exploitation, maltreatment [and] torture”.

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One Australian teenager, Yusuf Zahab, died past year aft being separated from his family. He was 11 erstwhile helium was trafficked into Syria.

The 26 Australians who are portion of the ineligible situation – not each of the 40-strong Australian contingent successful Roj campy – are lodging a writ of habeas corpus successful the national tribunal successful Melbourne.

Their lawsuit volition reason that the detention of the remaining Australian women and children successful Roj campy is arbitrary, and that Australia has effectual power implicit their continued detention due to the fact that the Syrian Democratic Forces that tally the campy will, connected the petition of the Australian government, merchandise the remaining Australians.

The situation volition reason Australia’s de facto power of the Australians’ detention is evidenced by the 2 palmy repatriations they person mounted.

Similar habeas corpus cases person been tally successful Europe and the UK, not each successfully. A Canadian tribunal ruled this twelvemonth that the Canadian authorities was obliged to instrumentality steps to repatriate its citizens from Syrian camps.

None of the Australian women oregon children person been charged with immoderate transgression successful immoderate state – immoderate women whitethorn look charges erstwhile they are returned to Australia – but the tribunal situation volition reason their existent detention is arbitrary and truthful unlawful.

The national tribunal writ, if it reached a hearing, could compel the authorities to warrant wherefore it has not repatriated its citizens.

When the past repatriation was undertaken, location affairs curate Clare O’Neil said the authorities considers a “range of security, assemblage and payment factors successful making the determination to repatriate”.

The US-backed Kurdish forces, the SDF, which runs the camp, is anxious to bare the Roj campy of overseas nationals and is consenting to assistance with repatriation missions. Other countries, including the US, Germany, France, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands, person already safely repatriated dozens of children and their mothers from the camps.