Barred by Australia, alleged Islamic State militant and her children to return to New Zealand

Wellington: New Zealand on Monday agreed to repatriate an alleged Islamic State militant from Melbourne and her two young children, who have been detained in Turkey since February.

The decision follows a bitter dispute with Australia over which country needed to shoulder responsibility for the woman, who had been a dual citizen of both countries until Australia stripped her citizenship under its anti-terrorism laws.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the decision came after it was unable to persuade Australia to repatriate the former citizen and resident of Melbourne.Credit:Getty Images

The woman and her children were arrested when they tried to illegally cross from Syria into Turkey, according to Turkey’s Defense Ministry. Turkey identified her only by her initials, S.A, but The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have confirmed she is Suhayra Aden, who was 26 at the time of her arrest.

Suhayra Adam, who also holds New Zealand citizenship, was living in the Kurdish-run al-Hawl camp with her two children until she was informed her citizenship was being cancelled by the Australian government last year.

Ms Adam has not lived in New Zealand since she was six and is believed to have spent a large part of her life in Australia.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand had taken into account its international responsibilities and could not remove citizenship from anybody if it left them stateless.

“I made very strong representations to Australia that she should be permitted to return there. Her family moved to Australia when she was 6 and she grew up there before departing for Syria in 2014 on an Australian passport,” Ardern said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Australia would not reverse the cancellation of citizenship.”

Ardern said the safety and wellbeing of New Zealanders was the government’s paramount concern. She said there had been extensive planning with the police and other agencies.

“I can assure people great care is being taken as to how the woman and her young children are returned to New Zealand and how they will be managed in a way that minimizes any risk for New Zealanders,” Ardern said.

It was not clear whether the woman would face any charges in New Zealand.

Ardern said anybody suspected of being associated with a terrorist group should expect to be investigated under New Zealand laws, although the case remained a matter for the police.

In February Ardern lashed out at the Australian government accusing it of having “abdicated its responsibilities in relation to this person and I have personally made that point to Prime Minister Morrison”.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended his government’s position at the time, saying his government was putting Australia’s national security interests first.

New Zealand police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

AP with Anthony Galloway

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